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Sindh Minister Urges Center to Upgrade COVID Surveillance at Entry Points

by Newsweek Pakistan

Sindh Health Minister Dr. Azra Pechuho

Dr. Azra Pechuho says provincial government needs 2 million doses of coronavirus vaccines to administer booster shots

Sindh Health Minister Dr. Azra Pechuho on Monday urged the federal government to improve its surveillance protocol for COVID-19 at all entry points of Pakistan to ensure the country’s healthcare infrastructure does not get overburdened by the spread of the Omicron variant.

“We urge the federal government to improve surveillance at all entry points, including airports, and restart the rapid antigen test for passengers,” she said at a press conference in Karachi on the threat posed by the new variant of concern. Stressing that the center should take precautionary measures now, while the country has yet to report a single case of the new variant, she said that initial research into Omicron showed it had 30 different mutations. “This suggests,” she said, “that it might have a faster rate of infection and could escape the body’s immune response.”

Echoing statements by Special Assistant to the P.M. on Health Dr. Faisal Sultan, Pechuho said getting vaccinated against COVID-19 and adhering to mask compliance remained the most reliable ways to ensure the infection did not spread.

On the Sindh government’s plans to make it mandatory for all fully vaccinated citizens to receive free vaccine booster shots, the minister said that the Sindh government needed two million doses of various COVID-19 vaccines for this purpose. “It’s important that people get booster doses so their immunity is enhanced against the virus,” she said, adding that the provincial government did not have sufficient vaccines to launch a drive to ensure this. “That’s why we have asked [federal government] to provide us with 100,000 doses of Pfizer, 500,000 doses of Moderna and 500,000 doses of AstraZeneca,” she said.

Individuals most at-risk from COVID-19—elderly over 65; immunosuppressed individuals; frontline healthcare workers—would be prioritized for the booster shots, she added.

Pechuho said the government would do genomic profiling of all vaccinated individuals who contracted COVID-19 to determine the variant that had infected them. This, she said, would allow authorities to determine the probability of a new variant infecting vaccinated people.

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