ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will start vaccinating residents aged 50 or older against COVID-19 from Wednesday next week, Planning Minister Asad Umar said on Saturday.
The country began its vaccination drive last February with doses of the Sinopharm vaccine donated by China, starting with health workers, followed by people above the age of 60.
Earlier this week, Umar, who also heads the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC), the country's apex body for coronavirus response, said Pakistan had so far vaccinated about 1.3 million people out of its 220 million population and intended to launch a general vaccination program for all citizens after the fasting month of Ramadan in mid-May.
"Decision taken in today's NCOC meeting to start vaccination of people in the age group of 50 to 59 from Wednesday the 21st of April," Umar said in a tweet.
He told the media on Tuesday that the country was immunizing between 60,000 and 70,000 people on a daily basis and planned to increase the number after Eid Al-Fitr.
The number of those getting their jabs is believed to have dropped during the first days of Ramadan as many fear that receiving a shot could break their fast.
Pakistan Medical Association secretary general Dr. Qaisar Sajjad said that despite the fact that religious scholars have endorsed the opinion of doctors to continue with vaccination despite the fast, more awareness is still needed.
“The government has done arrangement for vaccination during night but since we are going through the peak of a third wave and the cases of coronavirus infection are growing, the authorities should run a rigorous campaign with video messages of religious scholars so that the process may go fast all the time,” he told Arab News.
American media company Bloomberg recently reported that Pakistan would take a decade to vaccinate 75 percent of its population at its current immunization pace.