An inquiry was recently launched into the mysterious disappearance of hundreds of vials of the Covid-19 vaccine from public hospitals in the city. The outcome is far from satisfactory
Last week, reports about the alleged ‘disappearance’ of 900-odd jabs of the Covid-19 vaccine Sinopharm from three public hospitals in Lahore, shocked everyone. Though an inquiry was initiated on the orders of the Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar, the matter remains unresolved.
The vaccine doses had been provided to the public hospitals for the inoculation of frontline health workers, including doctors. However, rumours started circulating that the jabs had been ‘stolen’ for the use of unauthorised people — in this case, the doctors’ families and friends.
Taking notice of the alleged discrepancies, the provincial minister for primary and secondary healthcare, Dr Yasmin Rashid, came forward and declared that most of the doses were wasted because they hadn’t been stored properly. In her view, it was a case of negligence on the part of the management of some government hospitals including Services, Jinnah and the Government Mozang Teaching Hospital (GMTH).
The mainstream and social media have been abuzz with stories of how the jabs went ‘missing’ because some ‘influential’ persons in the government as well as some private people had jumped the queue to get themselves vaccinated. A video of the Federal Minister for Housing Tariq Bashir Cheema getting the jab privately at his home, was leaked on social media. It seemed to substantiate the allegation.
It was also reported that over 550 vials of Covid-19 had mysteriously disappeared from the stock of Services Hospital. The medical superintendent of the hospital placed the blame on his predecessor, Dr Saleem Cheema.
The mainstream and social media have been abuzz with stories of how the jabs went ‘missing’ because some ‘influential’ persons in the government as well as some private people had jumped the queue to get themselves vaccinated. A video of the Federal Minister for Housing Tariq Bashir Cheema, getting the jab privately at his home, was leaked on social media. It seemed to substantiate the allegation.
Some 350 vaccine vials provided to the Government Teaching Hospital Mozang were said to have been spoiled because of poor storage temperatures.
Following the CM’s orders, the Health Department kicked into action and launched an inquiry. Initially, it was revealed that the management of the hospitals might be involved in the theft and/or waste. The MS of GMTH, Dr Munir Ahmad Ghouri, and Services’s Dr Muhammad Zahid, were suspended from service on account of inefficiency. Both have pleaded not guilty in the inquiry.
The suspended Services Hospital MS, Dr Zahid, told the investigating officers that because he had taken charge only two weeks ago, he had no clue about whatever was going on.
Dr Ghauri claimed that a conspiracy had been hatched against him by a senior doctor at the GMTH. “I had made Dr Tariq in charge of the vaccination of health workers, but he misled the authorities regarding the storage of the vials. The vaccines were properly stored at suitable temperature. It is wrong to assume that they were spoiled or wasted. The health officials verified this in their surprise visit to the hospital recently,” he said.
Jinnah Hospital has been excluded from the inquiry.
Meanwhile, the Health Department has tightened the security measures at the hospitals. Dr Rashid tells TNS that no one shall be allowed to go scot-free if found guilty.
She also says that Pakistan will soon receive another batch of a million doses of Sinopharm from China. “Every step will be taken to provide protection to the citizens against the pandemic.
“The Punjab government has just started the registration of citizens above the age of 50 years for vaccination. The inoculation campaign will soon include people of other age groups,” she adds.
The writer is a senior journalist and can be reached at [email protected]