SAPM on Health urges public to adhere to SOPs, stressing that this is the most viable method to reduce spread of pandemic
Over 2 million doses of coronavirus vaccines have been administered across Pakistan thus far, Special Assistant to the P.M. on Health Dr. Faisal Sultan announced on Tuesday, as he urged citizens to adhere to government-issued guidelines to curb the spread of the pandemic.
“Yesterday, 88,000 doses of vaccines were administered,” he said in a press statement, adding that the country’s vaccination program was continuing without any hindrance. Noting that the government has established 22 mass vaccination centers nationwide, each with a daily capacity of 5,000 vaccinations.
While reiterating calls for all eligible groups to get vaccinated, Sultan noted that there were some misconceptions about the government’s vaccination strategy that he wanted to clarify. “There is a persistent belief that the government is relying solely on donated vaccines or grants. This is wrong,” he said. “We are in the process of purchasing vaccines from three different manufacturers,” he said, adding that 3 million doses had been procured since March 30, while deals for 30 additional doses had already been signed. “We will also have transfer of technology to manufacture our own doses of the CanSino vaccine,” he said.
Highlighting that there is a global shortage of vaccines right now, as developed nations have utilized the bulk of available supplies, the special assistant noted that vaccines rollouts had been negatively impacted by this across the world. “Even the richest nations, despite having pre-booked vaccines, are struggling to vaccinate their citizens because there are no available supplies,” he explained, giving the example of Canada, which is dealing with another surge of infections despite having pre-booked more vaccines than were required by its population. “Several major manufacturers, such as Astra-Zeneca, have been unable to meet demand,” he added.
Referring to the COVAX regime, which aims at equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for every country in the world, Dr. Sultan said that it, too, had been affected by the vaccine shortage. “They have not been able to send previously announced doses to Pakistan as yet, but we hope that in the coming days they will fulfill their commitments,” he added.
The special assistant reiterated warnings that if the current spread of the pandemic did not decease, and SOP compliance among the public improve, the government would consider locking down cities with high positivity ratio. He clarified that the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) received several data points from all affected districts and based all its decision-making on the available information. “Please trust in the decisions of the NCOC because its directives are based on data and accurate information,” he said.
Sultan said that the government was preparing for a potential surge in infections, noting that the capacity of healthcare facilities was being increased. Referring to neighboring India, where an ongoing second wave has faced issues with ensuring oxygen supply for patients, he said a special committee of the NCOC was monitoring the situation in Pakistan. “If the pandemic surges, the government is planning to bring online additional oxygen plants to ensure there is no shortage,” he said, adding that the Pakistan Steel Mills Oxygen Plant was being examined in this regard. “If ours needs reach a critical point, we would also recommend halting oxygen to non-essential industries or even import oxygen supplies to overcome the shortfall,” he added.
In addition to the supply concerns, he said the NCOC was also examining the matter of logistics and transport. “We are reviewing all measures to ensure there is no supply gap,” he said, adding that the NCOC would issue guidelines on the efficient use of oxygen to curb losses.
Sultan concluded his press conference by stressing that while vaccinations were very important, and every eligible person should get inoculated, the fastest method to reduce the current spread was through compliance with SOPs. “For a country of our size, the most important measure is SOPs,” he said. “Please wear masks, maintain a 6-foot distance, and avoid leaving your homes if there is no pressing need,” he said. “Please also large public gatherings and mark this Ramzan and the upcoming Eid with simplicity to help us overcome this pandemic,” he added.