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New guidelines issued: Govt restricts use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine for people under 40 years

File photo of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine AZD1222.

KARACHI/ISLAMABAD/LAHORE: Reviewing the national guidelines for the use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine AZD1222 within 24 hours, the federal health authorities on Sunday said use of coronavirus (COVID-19) Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine among less than 40 years be restricted irrespective of gender (till availability of further data).

“(On the recommendations of an expert committee), we have updated the interim guidelines (for the use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine AZD1222) today. There are two key changes: Use among less than 40 years be restricted irrespective of gender (till availability of further data). 2. Interval between doses fixed 12 weeks instead of range of 8-12 weeks mentioned in earlier version,” Director General Health Pakistan Dr Rana Muhammad Safdar told The News on Sunday.

He maintained that both above changes will lead to operational ease and added that guidelines remain interim as new data from around the world keeps pouring. Dr Rana Muhammad Safdar said international guidelines regarding the use of vaccines were rapidly changing on the basis of new data and research, so if they felt any need, guidelines for AstraZeneca’s use would be reviewed again. “All decisions are evidence-based to optimally ensure that the safety and efficacy of all vaccines authorized for use in Pakistan. Additionally, an efficient system is in place for adverse event surveillance in accordance with the global guidelines. It is heartening that all events reported so far are of minor nature and fully recovered,” Dr Rana Muhammad Safdar added.

Responding to a query regarding rapidly changing recommendations on the use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine, he said: “We have alternate vaccines, so have taken blanket decision. All under 40 will get other available shots,” he added.

Meanwhile, partial lockdown has been imposed across the country to curb growing cases of coronavirus. Business centres remained closed in the country as bazaars in different cities presented deserted look on Sunday. All tourist destinations will remain closed from May 8 to May 16. The lockdown will stay till May 16.

While, Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Pechuho on Sunday inaugurated the country’s largest vaccination centre in the Karachi Expo Centre, where an estimated 25,000-30,000 people would get COVID-19 jabs daily.

“From May 16, 2021, all individuals above the age of 18 years will be able to get vaccinated in the province,” Dr Azra Pechuho announced after the inauguration of the mega vaccination centre.

The minister maintained that the mass vaccination centre will offer round-the-clock service to the visitors registered by the federal government for the jabs as the country’s vaccination drive moves into top gear.

Currently, people above 40 years are eligible to get registered for the vaccination through the government portal. “The centre would facilitate 25,000 to 30,000 people on daily basis and would operate in three shifts,” she added. The arrangements have been made in Hall No 4 of the Expo center where 100 cubicles have been established in line with standard operating procedures (SOPs).

A workforce of around 500 people, comprising doctors, physicians, paramedics of the Health Department and volunteers would be offering their services at the centre.

Responding to various queries, she maintained that there were some issues of registration with the National Immunization Management System (NIMS) as some people were not getting codes for vaccination and advised the people of 40 years of age and above to visit any vaccination center along with their Computerized CNICs and get themselves vaccinated.

She deplored that District East of Karachi was the most affected area in the province due to COVID-19 where the highest number of cases and deaths were being recorded. “People are still not following the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), they are not wearing masks and are ignoring social distancing despite growing incidence of disease and deaths due to COVID-19,” she added.

“We can vaccinate up to 25,000 people in a day,” said Dr Sohail Sheikh of the Sindh Health Department, who is looking after the operation of the newly established vaccination centre at the Expo Centre. “This would be a huge and first of its kind (project) in the province. I am not sure about other parts of the country but we firmly believe that such a centre is not yet operational anywhere in Pakistan.”

Meanwhile, the national tally on Sunday of total active COVID-19 cases recorded 81,830 with 3,785 more people tested positive for the deadly virus and 4,569 people recovered from the disease during the last 24 hours.

One hundred and eighteen corona patients died during past 24 hours, 101 of whom were under treatment in the hospitals and 17 out of the hospitals in their respective quarantines or homes, according to the latest update issued by the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC).

During the past 24 hours, most of the deaths occurred in the Punjab followed by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Out of the total 118 deaths occurred in the last 24 hours 50 of them had died who were under treatment on ventilators.

Meanwhile, Minister for Planning Asad Umar has said tourist spots across the country will remain closed during Eid holidays.

In a tweet on Sunday he reminded people that all tourist destinations will remain closed from May 8 to May 16. Please do not come or you will be turned back. He tweeted, “In NCOC meeting chief secretary’s from Federating units which have popular tourist destinations requested to remind everyone that tourist areas are closed from 8th to 16th so please do not come or you will be turned back. StayHomeStaySafe

While, Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar has said that in a wake of the corona pandemic alarming situation the lockdown will be lasted till May 16, across the Punjab.

Corona situation is being monitored on daily basis as safeguarding the lives of the people is the top priority of the government. Citizens will have to be extra careful during the Eid holidays.

Wearing a mask is mandatory for every citizen whenever going out. The spread of coronavirus can only be stopped by following the government's guidelines. An irresponsible attitude will further intensify the situation, Usman Buzdar warned. He urged the citizens to remain in their homes during Eid holidays.

Usman Buzdar said that the government has taken effective measures for providing medical facilities to the corona affected persons. The number of ventilators and oxygen beds have been increased in the hospitals.