Punjab health minister warns of side effects, adding no one will be ‘forced’ to get vaccinated
Punjab Health Minister Dr. Yasmin Rashid on Monday said that anyone who received a vaccine for the novel coronavirus would do so “at their own risk.”
Addressing media in Lahore, she warned that the available vaccines had “side effects,” adding that some infirm and elderly had died after being inoculated in other countries. “No one will be vaccinated by force,” she said, adding that everyone eligible would be informed when vaccines were available but it would be up to them whether or not they were willing to be inoculated.
Dr. Rashid’s statement has raised concerns on social media, with users lamenting that a medical doctor who is also a health minister appeared to be discouraging the public from receiving the vaccine.
According to the minister, it is too soon to say how long the coronavirus vaccine would remain effective, noting booster shots could be required every few months or so. “Research on the treatment of the coronavirus pandemic is still going on around the world. We will make the public aware of the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine,” she said, stressing that the public should continue to adopt standard operating procedures to curb the spread of the virus.
Thanking China for sending the first shipment of the Sinopharm vaccine to Pakistan so inoculations of healthcare workers could begin, she said that the government would provide free vaccinations to healthcare workers in both the public and private sectors. Detailing the government’s vaccination strategy, she said that after frontline healthcare workers, the government would expand the program to other medical professionals, people aged over 60, immunocompromised individuals, people over 50 and then the general public.
“No VIPs will be vaccinated first,” she stressed, urging the media to monitor the vaccination process and complain to her personally if they saw anyone being immunized out of turn. She hoped the majority of the eligible population would be vaccinated in the next four to five months.
Dr. Rashid also sought to clarify reports in the media of Punjab medical colleges reducing reserved seats for citizens of other provinces. “Seats for medical students have not been reduced for any province, including Sindh,” she said, adding this was “false propaganda.”
The health minister also highlighted the incumbent government’s universal health coverage plan, noting that it would be completed by the end of the year. She said Rs. 10 billion worth of new equipment had been procured for public hospitals.