According to recent news, as soon as the Phase-I trial of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by the Chinese state-owned company Sinopharm concludes, Pakistan will start importing the vaccine. The inoculation is indeed effective, as no side effects of the vaccine administered to one million people in China, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Egypt have been reported. Hence there is no reason not to buy the Chinese product. Pfizer’s vaccine, on the other hand, needs super cold storage facilities. Establishing such facilities could have become a significant challenge. Therefore, the government made a prudent choice of going with the Chinese concoction.
The health authorities might feel a bit relieved, as the vaccine will help them in averting unnecessary deaths and reducing the extra burden of patients on hospitals. However, the real challenge that the health departments have to deal with will be the vaccination process itself. We see the ordeals of polio teams across the country whenever the government conducts a polio eradication drive. Both workers and security officials charged with protecting their lives are threatened. We saw this again this past week one a police officer charged with protecting a polio worker was killed in action.
The government needs to launch an effective public awareness campaign encouraging people to get themselves vaccinated. Furthermore, the vaccine should be affordable so that an ordinary person does not think twice before administering the dose.
Provinces need to start developing programmes like the one Sindh has. A monitoring and evaluation framework will help the provincial administrations to chalk out a clear and public timeline of the government’s inoculation efforts. Moreover, such a framework will help the officials to predict the normalisation after enough vaccinations have been rolled out. Adhering to the scheme will help in boosting the confidence of the public and investors. It will also allow the government to impose stricter regulations when needed.