Prime Minister Imran Khan testing positive for Covid-19 days after getting the first dose of the vaccine three days back raises two very pertinent questions. Why was the head of government who, despite being relatively fit for a 68-year old man, still falls in the high risk category for Coronavirus patients, not inoculated earlier even though the first batch of the vaccines arrived more than a month ago? Also, what exactly is the government’s plan beyond placing selected cities under a ‘smart lockdown’ that have so far proven to be largely ineffective considering how the positivity rate in Punjab has doubled in a matter of just three days, touching 14% yesterday and rising? While the answer to the first question can wait, the second cannot. What is particularly alarming is that this third wave has only just begun and will take some time to plateau and we are already witnessing numbers seen last June when the first wave hit its peak. A significant difference between then and now is that the multiple vaccines, which were in development last year, are available for use and have impressively high efficacy rates with negligible side effects at the moment. Unfortunately the government has left much to be desired when it comes to the vaccine rollout in Pakistan, which has proven to be a crucial game changer in countries where it has been handled properly.
There has been an unexplained level of secrecy concerning the funds allocated to the procurement of Covid vaccines that is no less than $250 million. So far the jabs that have been administered are lots that were procured through diplomatic channels from China as donations. As far as purchasing goes, SAPM on Health Faisal Sultan has been issuing vague updates that put the delivery date at some time near the end of this Month. Meanwhile, the Russian Sputnik vaccine that is being imported privately by pharmaceutical companies and will be available for purchase has been tied up in price control red tape with the DRAP. Given how we have a populace that is unwilling to take proper precautions, coupled with inefficient federal and provincial governments, it seems like this current upsurge in cases will run its course, crippling an already incapacitated healthcare system in the process. The best course of action therefore would be to divert more focus and energy towards the procurement and delivery of vaccines while keeping lockdowns in place and encouraging people to take necessary precautions.