THE next step in Pakistan’s war against the novel coronavirus has began with the right fanfare. Anaesthetist and critical care expert Prof. Rana Imran Sikander became the first person in the world to be vaccinated against the disease at the PM Office in the presence of Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday.
On Monday, the first batch of Covid-19 vaccines, totalling half a million doses developed by Sinopharm, arrived in Islamabad from Beijing, and the federal government dispatched their share of it the next day to the provinces. Yesterday, inoculation drives at the provincial level started. For the smooth launch of the mammoth nationwide campaign, the Central Command and Operation Center earns plaudits. A significant effort is being made to ensure that vaccine procurement keeps up with the rate of inoculation, judging by the comprehensive plan it has drawn up, and a storey in this paper yesterday cited SAPM on Health Dr. Faisal Sultan as saying that he does not think the supply side would pose a problem.
We care more on the market side,’ he added. The fear is that, according to health experts’ opinion, a large amount of the 70 m of the adult population who should be vaccinated to gain herd immunity will reject it or opt out for one cause or another, up to 30 m.
That is among other issues in a situation where the authorities are flying blind, at least to some degree. For a little over a year, the novel coronavirus was around. It is only recently that health practitioners have learned to some degree to treat acute cases of Covid-19, although the long-term and often debilitating effects of the disease are still being noted and recognised.
The immune system’s reaction to the vaccines remains the focus of considerable controversy, amid substantial human testing leading up to the approval stage. Remember that the health authorities in France and Sweden have cleared the Covid-19 vaccine from AstraZeneca but have cautioned people over 65 against prescribing it; this is counter to the EU decision to authorise the vaccine for adults of all ages. Meanwhile, a new UK report has reported that for at least six months, most people who have been infected with coronavirus have antibodies in their blood. The opinion on viral immune response has previously found a minimum duration of three months over which reinfection was extremely unlikely to occur.
One hopes that the timetable of the government is a rational one concerning the procurement of the remaining lots of the vaccines. In the meantime, the Pakistani population must be alert for potential side effects of inoculation, so that confusion does not deter people from registering. In addition, daily updates of disaggregated information about those being inoculated would go a long way to combating inevitable speculation of ‘elite’ people skipping the line. It is important to instil trust in the transparency of the operation.