Federal government authorities say inoculations halted in some centers due to disruption in supplies from China, lack of coordination
A shortage of coronavirus vaccines continued in Pakistan on Wednesday, with authorities saying the issue is a result of disruption in deliveries from China and will be resolved shortly.
On Tuesday, citizens were turned away from several vaccination centers in Karachi and Lahore, with staff claiming that they only had sufficient supplies for second doses. The shortage has most significantly impacted people between 18 and 40, who were allowed walk-in vaccination facility from last week. In a bid to overcome the shortage, the government has relaxed restrictions on vaccine utilization, allowing people under 40 to get inoculated with the AstraZeneca vaccine, which had earlier been restricted to people over 40.
In a press conference on Wednesday, Special Assistant to the P.M. on Health Dr. Faisal Sultan said the shortage was a “temporary” issue, adding that new consignments were due by the end of the week and the situation should return to normal after June 20. “There are more than 2,000 vaccination centers in the country and the number of visitors varies. So there may be a shortage of vaccines in some centers,” he said, while acknowledging that centers in major urban centers tend to have more demand.
He also sought to dismiss concerns of citizens who have been unable to secure their second doses, claiming the gap between doses could be extended by 2-3 weeks and they should not feel their first dose was “wasted” if they could not get fully vaccinated this week.
On Tuesday, two vaccinations centers were shuttered in Lahore, while several others have reported they are on the brink of running out. Punjab Health Minister Dr. Yasmin Rashid told media that the province had sufficient stocks for three more days—but this contradicts the government’s closure of several centers over the past two days.
In Karachi, authorities said there had been a “brief disruption” in vaccine stocks, adding that the situation would soon improve as the country started to utilize the locally manufactured PakVac vaccine.
According to sources within the federal government, the shortages are a result of the government shifting procurement responsibilities from the National Health Ministry to the National Disaster Management Authority. They said that there had also been a delay in the release of PakVac—the NHS had claimed last month that it would provide 3 million doses per month from June—which had worsened the supply issues.