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Vaccine blunder

A man-made disaster of gigantic proportions is in the making: the government of Pakistan, with more than four dozen cabinet members, forgot to purchase Covid-19 vaccines on time. A blunder of epic proportions. Alarm bells rang on June 20, 2020 when Pakistan recorded 159 Covid-19 related single-day deaths (during the first wave). Then on December 24, 2020 when Pakistan recorded 111 single-day deaths (during the second wave). On April 28, 2021 Pakistan recorded 201 single-day, Covid-19 related deaths, the highest ever.

Coronavirus cases approaching 900,000. Forgot to order vaccines. Deaths approaching 18,000. Forgot to order vaccines. Waiting for donations. Waiting for a miracle. On January 27 this year, PM Imran Khan “approved Rs500 million in development funds for each lawmaker of the PTI-led government.” That’s a wholesome Rs88.5 billion. With Rs88.5 billion we could have administered 145 million Pakistanis their first dose. But, nothing – absolutely nothing – for vaccines. On March 20, PM Imran Khan tested positive for Covid-19. On March 23, our government finally woke up and “bought more than one million doses of Chinese Sinopharm and CanSino Biologics Covid-19 vaccines, its first purchase from any manufacturer – having previously relied on donations.”

The prime minister of Bhutan – a poor landlocked Himalayan country – has managed to vaccinate 62 percent of Bhutan’s population. The prime minister of Pakistan has managed to vaccinate one percent of Pakistan’s population. India is at 9 percent and Bangladesh is at 3.5 percent. Thailand has procured vaccinations to cover 52 percent of its population; Nepal 47 percent, Turkey 63 percent and African Union 40 percent. Pakistan: one percent.

On April 28, Asad Umar, our ex-economic czar, proudly tweeted: “Daily vaccinations crossed 1 lakh in a day for the first time yesterday.” Sir, at that rate it would take eight long years to vaccinate the entire population provided we get a continuous supply of vaccine-which we incidentally forgot to order.

What are the risks for Pakistan? Here’s the expert opinion: “In countries where no significant proportion of the population is vaccinated, there is a huge risk of sustained community spread of Covid-19 over a prolonged period. The longer the period of sustained community spread, the more likely that the virus will mutate. And this means it could be breeding ground for the new coronavirus-SARS-CoV-2-to mutate into more aggressive variants. The mutated variants from the unvaccinated population may be able to infect even those in the vaccinated population.”

Vaccinated countries will close down their borders to Pakistanis. Vaccinated countries may even refuse to accept Pakistani exports. No international travel – except for the vaccinated. Within Pakistan, we “could soon find ourselves battling epidemics of diseases we thought we had conquered decades ago.”

Lockdown is not a solution – it’s only a stop-gap arrangement. The Covid-19 endgame is all about vaccinations. Vaccines are working. In the UK (50 percent vaccinated), “cases, hospital admissions and deaths have fallen…” In the US (42 percent vaccinated), “hospitalisations continue to decline…” On April 24, Israel (62 percent vaccinated), “recorded no new daily Covid-19 deaths for the first time in 10 months.”

On April 9, Pakistan raised $2.5 billion through a multi-tranche transaction of dollar-denominated Eurobonds. The cost of vaccinating 220 million Pakistanis will be around $1.5 billion. Will Pakistan be declared the ‘breeding ground for the new coronavirus-SARS-CoV-2?’ A catastrophe waiting to happen?

Dr Farrukh Saleem, "Vaccine blunder," The News. 2021-05-02.
Keywords: Social sciences , Social issues , Vaccinated population , Social community , Coronavirus , Covid-19 , PM Imran Khan , China , Pakistan , PTI , SARS