Vaccintation drive for older people to start from March 15
The Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan approved on Friday the Chinese-made Sinopharm vaccine for people above 60 years. The approval comes almost two months after the vaccine was approved for emergency use in the country.
Health workers who fall in that age group and are registered with the National Immunisation Management System can now receive the vaccine. Those who haven’t registered themselves can do so on https://nims.nadra.gov.pk/nims/.
Registration is also ongoing for anyone in the general population above 60 years of age. They can sign up for the COVID-19 vaccine on the NIMS website or by sending their CNIC number to 1166.
In early February, the national health ministry had released guidelines that said people above 60 years should not get the Sinopharm vaccine. Dr Faisal Sultan the prime minister’s aide on health had, however, said that the guidelines would be updated as new information becomes available.
Dr Sultan himself received the shot on February 22, urging other health workers to do the same. Pakistan formally launched the coronavirus vaccination drive on February 3. The first batch of COVID-19 vaccines was a gift from China and reached Islamabad on February 1.China has also promised to supply 500,000 additional Sinopharm vaccine doses free of cost, announced Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on March 3.
Sinopharm’s vaccine, scientifically known as BBIBP-CorV, is an inactivated virus vaccine with an efficacy of 79.3%. It has been approved in at least 16 countries.
The rate of vaccination in Pakistan has been slow and there are reports of health workers hesitating to get the shot. Around 230,000 frontline health workers among 400,000 registered had been vaccinated by Friday, according to Dr Sultan.
A recent survey of 555 health workers conducted by Gallup Pakistan showed that 19% of those surveyed would not get the vaccine. Around 63% said they would “certainly” get the shot while 18% said they would “probably” get it. However, 59% of medical workers in the poll said they had not been offered the vaccine yet.
The most common reason for hesitancy was concern about its safety. Around 58% of those surveyed said the vaccine was developed too fast to guarantee safety. So far, no adverse events after vaccination have been reported in the country.
Forty-six percent said they would prefer the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccine over the Sinopharm shot.
“No doctor is refusing to get the vaccine. Some of them are waiting for the Oxford one, AstraZeneca,” said Dr Salman Kazmi, general secretary of the Young Doctor’s Association Pakistan, reported Reuters.
“But there are some myths and delays, that is probably why the speed of vaccination is not high.”