Walk-in vaccinations rolled out to over-40s

ISLAMABAD: As the coronavirus death toll hit 19,000 on Tuesday, the government opened a walk-in coronavirus disease vaccination scheme for people aged 40 to 49, Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar announced.

“Starting tomorrow the 12th of May all 40 plus who have registered will be able to walk into any vaccination center of their choice and get vaccinated,” he tweeted.

The minister also clarified that vaccination centres will close only for two days on Eidul Fitr and open gates on the third.

In the last 24 hours, the coronavirus portal registered 3,084 new infections of Covid-19 after conducting 38,883 tests, receiving back a scaled-down transmission rate of 7.93 per cent. Meanwhile, deaths increased by 113 to 19,106.

The National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) had opened registration of around 12 million people in the said age group late on April 27. The same day, it also okayed walk-in vaccination facility for people over 50.

On Monday, the NCOC barred people under 40 years of age and those with a history of severe allergic reaction to any component of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine from taking the jab.

Pakistan received its first shipment of 1.2 million AstraZeneca doses through the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access (Covax) facility on Saturday.

According to the interim guidelines issued by the Health Ministry about administering those jabs, people who developed blood clotting issues after receiving the first dose of the vaccine should not take the second dose.

Those with active gastrointestinal bleeding or seizure, or a history of heparin-induced thrombocytopenia and thrombosis are also stopped from opting to get the AstraZeneca vaccine administered, the guidelines added.

Today, in a series of tweets, Asad also announced the country’s coronavirus drive was designed to ensure the maximum number of the most vulnerable groups were given priority for the inoculations.

“Reason, why we are opening vaccination based on age in descending order, is due to finite availability of vaccines globally, as well as vaccination capacity in the country,” he explained.

“Both supply of vaccines and vaccination capacity are continuously increasing with concerted efforts,” he said but added that until capacity and supply were on track to cater to the entire population, the campaign must focus on society’s most vulnerable age groups.

“It is vital that vaccination is concentrated on the most vulnerable segments of [the] population. The risk of mortality due to COVID rises sharply with age,” the minister warned.

The studies reveal that age is by far the strongest predictor of an infected person’s risk of dying — a metric known as the infection fatality ratio (IFR), which is the proportion of people infected with the virus, including those who didn’t get tested or show symptoms, who will die as a result.

Umar also noted the same pattern had been witnessed in Pakistan, where “the case fatality rate based on cumulative data” has shown strong linkages between age and deaths caused by the disease.

“Mortality percentage, which has been less than 1 per cent for people under 40, rises to 1.8 per cent for [people aged] 41-50; 3.8 per cent for 51-60; 7.2 per cent for 61-70; 11.1 per cent for 71-80; and over 15 per cent for those above 80,” he said.

Despite only 7 percent of the population being over 60, around 53 per cent of all coronavirus-related deaths in the country have been in this age bracket, he said.

“Conversely 77 percent of Pakistan’s population is below the age of 40 and only 9 percent of total COVID deaths in Pakistan have been in this age bracket,” he added.

Pakistan is currently facing a third peak of the pandemic, and to bring the situation under control, the government is taking stringent measures including locking down almost the whole country during the ongoing Eidul Fitr holidays and accelerating the vaccination process.

In a related development, health authorities in Thailand said Monday they have confirmed the country’s first cases of the Indian variant of the coronavirus, in a Thai woman and her 4-year-old son who have been in state quarantine since arriving from Pakistan.

However, Asad was quick to refute the claim. It was impossible that the Thai travellers contracted the Indian variant of the coronavirus from Pakistan, he said, insisting the mutant was not found in the country.

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