Monday October 25, 2021

Sarwar wants status of expats with varying vaccine jabs upgraded

By  Amer Malik
August 04, 2021

LAHORE: While identifying an anomaly that prevents issuance of completed vaccine certificates to people required to travel abroad, Punjab Governor Chaudhry Sarwar has requested the National Command Operation Center (NCOC) to instruct National Database & Registration Authority (NADRA) to upgrade records of people with varying vaccine jabs.

Many expatriate Pakistanis and foreigners, who had come to Pakistan after getting one shot of a certain vaccine brand from their host/home countries, got different brands of vaccine shots for lack of availability of the same brand.

In a letter to Federal Minister for Planning Asad Umar, who is also NCOC Chairman, Governor Chaudhry drew attention towards NADRA’s existing system and delayed updating that often works against those in urgent need of urgent travel abroad. Under such circumstances, he said, the updated vaccination status with few particular brands, such as Pfizer BioNtech, Moderna and AstraZeneca, becomes extremely important. Without these updates, he said, such emergency circumstances become further complicated.

“An additional column may be added for updating of NADRA records with other types of vaccines being administered in Pakistan so that all people can meet requirements of documentary evidence,” he suggested.

“We have completed our two vaccine doses --- one each of AztraZeneca and Pfizer, but NADRA considers it unacceptable and wants us to have a third dose, as a second dose of vaccine administered locally, for it to issue full vaccine certificate,” said Naveed Ahmad, an expatriate Pakistani, who came from Saudi Arabia along with his family but unable to travel back due to this anomaly.

While the countries, including Saudi Arabia, accept mix and match of two different vaccines, Naveed Ahmad argued that NADRA must accept vaccines taken in a foreign country as a valid dose to facilitate completion of vaccine passports.

“It will not just spare individuals traveling abroad from taking a third dose that may pose potential harm in the absence of any scientific evidence, but will also save additional vaccine doses for the local authorities to be used upon those needing them the most,” he added.

When contacted, a spokesman for NADRA told The News that NADRA has not received any instructions from NCOC with regard to enrollment of the first dose of a vaccine taken in a foreign country, which is different from that taken in Pakistan. “If we receive NCOC’s instructions in this regard, we will immediately accept and enroll two doses of different brands,” he added.

Talking to The News, Prof Dr Khalid Mahmood Khan, Head of Department of Medicine at the Jinnah Hospital, Lahore, said that, ideally, it is not recommended to mix and match two different vaccine brands, especially with a gap of 2-3 weeks.

“The doses of varying brands, however, can be mixed 60 days apart,” he added. As overseas Pakistanis and foreign travelers are compelled to take doses of varying vaccine brands for lack of availability of the same dose in Pakistan or any other reason, he said, the third dose will serve as a booster dose. Special Assistant to PM on Health Dr Faisal Sultan did not respond to repeated calls and a message to give his view on the subject.