Pakistan: COVID-19 case numbers in Pakistan are dropping as a nationwide vaccination drive gets underway. However, supply problems persist amid the looming threat of highly contagious variants.
Health officials in Pakistan say they are working to keep getting doses in arms.
Laiba Zainab, a 25-year-old journalist in Pakistan's central city of Multan, was eager to receive a shot of China's Sinopharm COVID vaccine on June 10, after spending five months waiting for her age group to be called.
Pakistan's vaccination drive got off to a bumpy start earlier this year, beset by lack of supply and vaccine hesitancy. In February, only senior citizens were eligible to receive a shot. But last month, driven by an influx of Chinese vaccines, Pakistan started a mass vaccination campaign for all adults.
The process is organised through an online registration system. When a dose is available, recipients receive a text message code, and go to one of 2,000 mass vaccination centers across the country.
"When the government announced the registration to vaccinate citizens aged 18 years or older, I sent messages every day, and sometimes two or three times a day" said Zainab, adding that it took several weeks before she got her appointment.
As South Asia has experienced a surge in cases in previous months, Zainab said she was alarmed, and getting vaccinated was a priority.
"The vaccination process was smooth and it took 20 minutes," she said. "I urge people to get vaccinated, and I am sharing my experience on social media to bust myths about vaccination."
Pakistan accelerates inoculation drive.
Zainab is now among nearly 13 million people, out of a total population of 230 million, who have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Her second shot is scheduled for early July.
"We have seen a steady increase in the rates of daily vaccination, crossing 400,000 doses per day. We do hope for a further increase to well over half a million doses a day," Pakistani Health Minister Faisal Sultan told.
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Fareeha Irfan, a public health physician and expert in health policy and management, told that the Pakistani government has streamlined access to vaccinations, and the public has responded well.
"The number of COVID-19 cases has significantly dropped," Irfan said.
"Now the government is offering a drive-through vaccination facility which will make it easier for the public to come for vaccination," she added.
The number of COVID-19 cases in Pakistan has drastically decreased in the past few weeks. On Monday, 660 new cases were registered and 25 deaths were reported, the lowest numbers in the past eight months.
The government target is to vaccinate 70 million people by the end of 2021, according to the country's health minister.