Pakistan fights double battle against Covid-19 and vaccine hesitancy

By Jaime León

Islamabad, May 8 (EFE).- Getting vaccinated against Covid-19 in Pakistan is a proverbial cakewalk because not many people turn up for immunization.

You walk into a government hospital and come out vaccinated in a few minutes, unlike other countries in the region where people have to queue at immunization centers.

Widespread vaccine hesitancy has made it easier for those who chose to get inoculated in Pakistan.

The vaccine reluctance in the Muslim-majority country is related to religious and cultural reasons and conspiracy theories.

Only five million out of a 220-million population have registered for immunization, according to minister for covid-response Asad Umar.

Pakistan has received five million vaccine doses from Chinese firms Sinopharm and Cansino.

The government has opened the campaign for the 40-plus age group.

At the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences, one of the major hospitals in the country, signages lead to the vaccination area, where an administrator asks for documentation and confirms that the injection would be administered immediately.

“Come back in 21 days to get the second one,” the nurse says after administering the vaccine.

One has to wait at the center for 30 minutes to watch out for any possible severe side-effects of the Sinopharm antidote.

The government aimed to vaccinate 100 million people above the age of 18. Out of these, a little over three million have been inoculated.

The process could have been more difficult with just five million doses available if enough people had been willing to get inoculated.

The campaign continues amid the third wave of the pandemic in the country, with the latest surge throwing up alarming figures.

The country witnessed its highest daily death toll of 201 on Apr. 29.

Some 120 deaths took place in the last 24 hours from Friday, taking the total number of fatalities to 18,797.

Over 4,100 new infections were registered over the past day, taking the total caseload to 854,240.

However, the number of cases is still far below those in neighboring India, where the pandemic is wreaking havoc with soaring deaths.

It has generated a sense of confidence in Pakistan which does not help the cause of vaccination.

“I am not getting the vaccine. I heard two people died after been vaccinated and I don’t want to risk it,” Waqar, a taxi driver in Islamabad, told EFE.

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