Provincial health department suspends doctor who allegedly vaccinated VIPs in violation of SOPs restricting current phase to frontline healthcare workers
Less than a week after Pakistan officially commenced its COVID-19 vaccination campaign, the process has already become controversial with reports of VIPs and influential personalities securing vaccines out-of-turn.
Addressing the reports of people who are not frontline healthcare workers being administered vaccines in Sindh—despite the National Command and Operation Center stressing the first phase of vaccinations will be restricted—Planning Minister Asad Umar on Sunday warned of strict action if this did not stop. He claimed that in the center, the vaccines had not even been administered to Prime Minister Imran Khan, federal ministers or their families, as the priority was healthcare workers.
In a posting on Twitter, he said he had received complaints of people other than healthcare workers being administered vaccines in Karachi. He emphasized that representatives of the Sindh government had been instructed by the NCOC to vaccinate healthcare workers only. He warned that if the provincial government was unable to only administer the vaccines to healthcare workers, the federal government might have to step in and take control of the inoculation process.
Social media erupted in outrage over vaccines being administered to the daughter and son-in-law of former Sindh governor Mohammad Zubair, also a spokesperson for the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz). Neither of the two is a healthcare worker and Zubai has categorically denied pulling any strings to secure vaccines for them. Similarly, several private citizens linked to various political parties have shared photos of themselves being administered the vaccines despite not being healthcare workers.
Following Umar’s tweet, the Sindh health department suspended Karachi District East Deputy District Officer Dr. Aneela Qureshi for allegedly violating SOPs by helping non-healthcare workers secure vaccines. An inquiry committee led-by Fayyaz Hussain Abbasi, the provincial coordinator of the Emergency Operation Center for polio, has also been constituted to investigate the matter and submit a report within three days.
Pakistan launched its coronavirus vaccination drive on Feb. 2, with authorities announcing that the first phase would cater to frontline healthcare workers. In the second phase, they said, elderly would also be accommodated, while the general public would have to wait till the third phase, which could take another three to four months to commence.