Pakistan vaccine Sinopharm
A health worker counts used vials of Sinopharm's coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine, at a vaccination centre in Karachi, Pakistan February 11, 2021. Image Credit: Reuters

Islamabad: Only 2.25 per cent or 180,000 of an estimated 8 million senior citizens in Pakistan have so far registered for the coronavirus vaccination. The number has been described as a slow and discouraging response from the public to the vaccine campaign.

Pakistan launched its COVID-19 vaccine drive in early February beginning with the healthcare workers in the first phase after receiving Sinopharm doses from China. At least 25 per cent of the 400,000 registered doctors, nurses and paramedical staff registered have been vaccinated by now, according to local media reports. Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan earlier said that the country had adequate stocks of coronavirus vaccines to begin vaccination of senior citizens.

The health department started registration of those 65 years and above for the vaccination programme from February 15. The vaccination drive to inoculate the senior citizens is set to begin this month, however, only 2.25 per cent of the seniors have registered till now which is “not a very positive response”, according to health officials.

The South Asian country of 220 million aims to vaccinate almost 70 million by the end of the year but the vaccination process has remained extremely slow and received a mixed response from the people including health workers who are wary of vaccine side effects. Dr Faisal Sultan last month urged the healthcare workers and those eligible to get vaccinated to protect themselves as well as their loved ones. Experts, however, have suggested a robust national education campaign to inform people that the vaccines are completely safe.

Last week, the country relaxed most of the coronavirus restrictions on commercial activities, schools, offices and other workplaces, after the continuous decline in cases. However, the health officials have warned of a third wave of coronavirus, urging the government to keep some restrictions in place and speed up the vaccination campaign.

Pakistan recorded 1,163 coronavirus cases and 42 deaths in the last 24 hours. Currently, there are 22,184 active coronavirus cases in the country. The country has reported a total of 582,528 COVID-19 cases and 12,983 coronavirus-related deaths since February 2020. The daily average of tests ranged between 36,000 tests since January this year and the country has conducted a total of around 9 million tests so far.