Lahore, 20 April 2021: While Covid continues to affect large segment of population in Pakistan, efforts to counter it with effective vaccination campaign are far from being satisfactory. This follows a dismal response to following SOPs causing large scale illnesses and deaths. Government and society both should appreciate the dangers of the pandemic and opt for vaccination before the existing wave goes out of control.
This was expressed in a press briefing by Pakistan Islamic Medical Association (PIMA) and Alkhidmat Foundation today in Lahore press club, addressed by Prof Khubaib Shahid, President PIMA; Prof Muhammad Afzal Mian, Senior vice chairman Alkhidmat Health Foundation and Dr Shamshad Ali, Secretary PIMA Lahore. Speakers urged the society to take the problem seriously.
Following points were highlighted in the press conference:
- Pakistan is passing through a heightened wave of Covid 19 with over 5000 cases reported daily and a test positivity rate of over 10%. Situation in some cities of Punjab and KPK is worst since start of the pandemic with acute shortage of hospitalsbeds for sick patients. Evidence of new strains spreading faster and affecting younger people, is adding to the already huge problem.
- The SOPs to prevent virus spread werehardly adopted by the population and poorly implemented by the governments,except initial few months.
- Covid 19 vaccination, despite various limitations, remain the best tool at present to stop the onslaught. While it’s benefit can only be expected with vaccination of majority of population, the coverage in Pakistan is disappointingly low at below 1% to date. This is lower than India (8%) Bangladesh and Sri Lanka (4% each). As per government figures of 15th April 2021, only 1.5 million doses out of 2.5 million procured from China mainly, have been given to roughly 0.8 million people in a population of 220 million.
The facilities at different vaccination centers are however, of general satisfaction.
The failure of mass coverage is believed to be due to:
- Misinformation about Covid vaccination in the community including fear of adverse effects and lack of efficacy.
- Limited supplies available to the general public.
During Ramzan, it is feared that the whole process may be further slowed down.
- Even the health care workers most at risk have not had adequate coverage as yet. Apart from those not getting themselves vaccinated, halting of the registration process has caused difficulties.
- Recently Vaccine has been made available in the private sector. On one hand, this has been welcomed by the well to do few, on the other hand the price charged by the private concerns in agreement with the governmentwas beyond the reach of even the affording class. Supply chain and storage issues have also been questioned.
Keeping above in view, we request from the government:
- To speed up the vaccination campaignon a priority basis.
- The foremost need is to increase the available stockof effective vaccines for free supply to the population.
- Trusted charitable organizations like Alkhidmat should be allowed to import vaccines or be supplied on subsidized rates; being non-profit organizations, the vaccine can be made available on nominal rates to benefit larger population. Hopefully philanthropists may also come forwards by donations through these organizations for wider public benefit.
- More vaccination centers need to be established across the country. During Ramzan, all or many should also operate during post Iftar hours for the benefit of those who find it difficult to travel in fasting state or are reluctant to get injection during fasting.
- A large-scale vaccination awareness campaign needs to be launched by the government utilizing electronic, print and social media. Doubts about efficacy and safety of the vaccines needs addressing by leading medical experts, while public figures announcing their vaccinated status may build up people’s confidence.
- That Ramzan should not be a deterrent to vaccination.
- As per religious scholars Covid injection does not invalidates fast being without nutritional value.
- Vast majority of those vaccinated, including elderly, have not experienced any side effects.
- Muslims should appreciate that saving life and health is one of the basics of ‘maqasid-e-shariyyah’ which should not be delayed due to fasting.
- Covid will continue to affect regardless of anyone fasting or not; Ramzan or any other month. We have seen it in last Ramzan and should be careful in adopting an approach of tawakkulwithout tadbeer.
- There may not be a better show of confidence in the national vaccine campaign than to see the senior religious scholars taking the lead in getting their COVID-19 vaccines during the month of Ramadan. This may boost confidence of their millions of followers and nullify the notion of any anti-Islamic element in Covid vaccine or negative effect in Fasting.
We also request from the society:
- To come forward and register in vaccination drive. With so much devastation caused by the virus in last fourteen months, one wonders what are we waiting for while a plausible solution is in front of us? People should trust the specialists rather than believe in unfounded stories and fake news on media.
- To adopt the SOPs of wearing masks in public places, keeping safe distancing when outdoors, and avoiding gatherings which pose a serious threat to continued spread of the virus that carries a potential of serious illness and death
May Allah protect us from disease and ignorance Ameen.