The drive-through vaccination centre at Gaddafi Stadium, the first of its kind in the country, may prove to be a game changer
This past week, Pakistan marked the administration of the 10th million Covid-19 vaccine dose in the country. With the sixth largest population in the world, we have managed to circumvent the worst of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.
Across the border to the east, the virus has ravaged India, with the number of daily infections touching 100,000 with as many as 6,000 deaths per day. To the west, Afghanistan faces a mutating public health crisis. Pakistan, on the other hand, has so far reported just over 850,000 infections, validating government efforts in battling the pandemic. The national vaccination campaign has been sped up with designated vaccination centres operating round the clock (except on Fridays). Adults can now simply walk in to any vaccination centre for the jab. So far, Sinopharm and Sinovac are the two vaccines being administered.
Recently, the district government of Lahore set up what is the country’s first drive-through vaccination centre at Nishtar Park Sports Complex, Gaddafi Stadium. Located at the city centre, adjacent the Canal Road on one side and Gulberg’s commercial hub on the other, this facility may very well prove to be a game changer for the citizens of Lahore.
An area of the Nishtar Park Sports Complex has been cordoned off and booths have been set up where citizens can drive up to in order to get their vaccination. As many as 100 people can be vaccinated at a time if the setup continues to operate at full capacity. The operational hours of this centre are from 8pm to 2am daily, except Saturdays and Sundays when the centre starts working at 5 in the evening.
No more queuing up at counters, no more exposure to crowds, and no waiting for a vaccination station — everything will be done for you while you stay in your car.
As of now, there’s no restriction on the number of people allowed in a vehicle. However, care must be taken to follow the government-mandated SOPs. Once a vehicle enters the area, the first stop is a registration booth. Pakistani nationals are required to show their computerised ID cards (CNICs). Foreign nationals can use their passports to get registered. A computer generated receipt is then provided for each person intending to get vaccinated. The next stop is a Vitals Checking Booth. Here, the vitals — such as blood pressure and temperature — of each person in line for vaccination are recorded by trained paramedical staff.
The next step is the jab: once a car rolls up to the final booth, a medical technologist applies the vaccination dose. Visitors are advised to wait for around 10 to 15 minutes in the parking area to report any unwanted reactions.
On the flip side, it was observed that at every booth, persons disembarked from their vehicles to get their turn first instead of waiting for the staff to come to them. The presence of restaurants mere metres away from the booths presented an additional logistical challenge, for which traffic control may become essential in the days to come.
Drive-through vaccination is quickly catching on across the globe. The initiative is a welcome addition for the residents of Lahore. Reportedly, a new drive-through vaccination centre is planned near DHA later this week.
Whilst the overall concept and infrastructure setup have been impeccable, to say the least, there is always some room for improvement. In this case, I noticed mismanagement leading some vehicles to lose their place in the queue. The entry itself bottlenecks from four lanes to two.
The number of staff on hand should probably be increased. It was observed that at every booth, persons disembarked from their vehicles to get their turn first instead of waiting for the staff to come to them. The presence of restaurants mere metres away from the booths presented an additional logistical challenge, for which traffic control may become essential in the days to come.
Taking advantage of the opportunity to vaccinate is not just about self-preservation; it’s a national duty to protect ourselves and others. The government’s efforts to make a number of options available, and the ease of access by allowing residents to get vaccinated from any centre throughout Pakistan must surely be appreciated. Now that a robust system is in place, attention must be paid by the Primary and Secondary Healthcare Department to increase awareness and adopt a behaviour change communication strategy. This is essential given the high frequency of misinformation and rumour that is preventing many of those at risk from getting vaccinated.
Additionally, there is a critical need to re-energise the Civil Defence Department and its volunteers who work long hours with little or no compensation. The department, now a mere shadow of its former self, can perform during all types of crises. The staff at these centres is at the forefront of our efforts in combating the pandemic. The fact that most of them are not fully vaccinated, and many of them are not provided with gloves or instructed to wear masks, puts the entire effort at risk. Provision of sufficient equipment, including personal protective equipment, and ensuring full vaccination of all front line workers must be made a priority.
The writer is a development sector professional with nearly a decade of experience in communications and reporting. He has supported the implementation of The World Bank’s Disaster and Climate Resilience Improvement Project (DCRIP) and ADB’s Flood Emergency Reconstruction and Resilience Project (FERRP) in Pakistan