A girl receives a dose of Sinovac vaccine at a vaccination centre in Lahore, Pakistan, on Thursday. AFP
Tariq Butt, Correspondent
Pakistan’s Federal Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Minister Asad Umar said on Thursday that citizens intending to go for Hajj this year, those working abroad on work visas issued by countries that did not recognise vaccination certificates of Chinese vaccines and students planning to go to educational institutions in such countries within a month, would be given priority for the administration of Pfizer — an American COVID-19 vaccine brand.
Umar told reporters that Pakistan received a limited quantity of Pfizer this month and therefore, preference for its administration has to be given to some segments. However, he added, Pakistan would receive more doses of Pfizer in the future.
The minister warned that countries not accepting vaccination certificates of Chinese vaccines would turn out to be a problem for the entire world if a decision was not taken on the issue at the global level.
Asad Umar inaugurates first private vaccination centre at Centaurus Mall in Islamabad on Thursday.
"If every country makes it mandatory for visitors to be inoculated by their choice of vaccine brands, the entire world would suffer,” he said, adding that Chinese COVID-19 vaccines were the most exported brands in the world at present.
Umar said the vaccination campaign against COVID-19 would be successful since the government has taken the private sector and business community onboard and also planned to partner with non-governmental organisations to accelerate the campaign and make it more effective.
He said that there were around 1,700 COVID-19 vaccination centres in Pakistan at present, and the government planned to increase the number to 4,000.
Umar added that teachers and school staff were being vaccinated at a rapid pace in the country, which would contribute to the success of the campaign.
People register to get a dose of Sinovac vaccine at a mass vaccination centre in Islamabad. AFP
The minister lauded the Islamabad district health officer and other relevant city authorities, saying that a review during a National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) meeting has revealed that the capital fared better than other cities in terms of vaccination and registration for vaccination. The ratio of registrations for vaccination to the city’s population is the highest in Islamabad, and so is the number of inoculated persons, he said.
However, he added that the city authorities needed to further pace up vaccination and expressed hope that vaccination would also be sped up in other cities of Pakistan.
A woman receives a dose of Sinovac vaccine at a vaccination centre in Lahore. AFP
Earlier, The Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) had urged the World Health Organisation (WHO) to play its role in getting all vaccines accepted by countries which made it mandatory for visitors to be inoculated by only certain brands.
In a written letter to WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in May, PMA Secretary General Dr Qaisar Sajjad had requested the world health body to help resolve the vaccination issue of people who need to travel abroad because the relevant authorities of some countries had approved vaccines of only certain companies. He had warned that this policy would have a devastating effect on international travel and trade.
According to the NCOC data, Pakistan will receive 5.6m doses by the end of March, with 2.8m doses of Gavi/Covax expected in the first week of next month and another 2.8m doses by the second week. In all, 17.1m doses will reach Pakistan by the end of June.
Meanwhile, after the UK variant made inroads into various cities of the country, Pakistan has reported its first confirmed patient carrying the Indian strain.
Following an EU summit, French President Emmanuel Macron said there was a "new type of world war," adding: "We are looking in particular at Russian and Chinese attacks and attempts to gain influence through the vaccine."
This came in a phone call Sheikh Mohamed received on Wednesday from the Syrian president where they also discussed the ongoing developments in Syria and the Middle East in addition to issues of regional and international interest.
Beijing has maintained a relentless zero-Covid approach with strict border closures and targeted lockdowns, even as other countries tentatively try to ease restrictions.
The pony-tailed senior Khan sporting dark shades and a black facemask over a grey half-sleeved T-shirt was virtually mobbed by the paparazzi and the hordes of policemen as he entered the menacing barred gates of the ARCJ in the congested south Mumbai.