KARACHI: Vaccination centers closed in Pakistan’s Sindh province on Sunday over a vaccine shortage, a senior health official confirmed, as the federal government promises that millions of shots will reach the country in the coming days.
The decision to slow the vaccination drive in Sindh was made during a meeting of the provincial COVID-19 task force a day earlier after it turned out that the province where 22 million adults are eligible for vaccination, had only 300,000 vaccine doses left.
“The taskforce decided to close down vaccination centers across Sindh on Sunday keeping in view the unavailability of the required amount of vaccines,” Qasim Soomro, the provincial parliament’s health secretary, told Arab News.
“We have around 300,000 vaccine doses left,” he said, adding that two weeks ago the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC), which oversees the country’s pandemic response, requested the province to expedite its immunization campaign.
“(We) were promised that we will get the required number of vaccines,” Soomro said, adding the local government subsequently increased its daily vaccination capacity by setting up vaccination centers and some 35 mobile vaccination units in every district.
“With increased capacity, we started inoculating up to 110,000 people daily as we began sending vaccination teams to industries, malls, university, religious place and remote villages. But supply didn’t match the capacity and as result we ran out of the vaccine doses,” Soomro said.
On Saturday, he added, only 70,0000 people were vaccinated, while authorities have also decided to relocate some vaccine doses from rural areas to densely populated cities, especially Karachi, where living conditions make people more likely to contract the disease.
“We have to rely on supplies from the federal government,” he said, explaining that despite NCOC’s permission for the province to directly procure vaccines from their producers, the drug makers “declined to share the prices on which vaccines were provided to federal government.”
The government has meanwhile announced that millions of vaccine doses are due to arrive in Pakistan in the coming days.
“With 1.5 million vaccines arriving today and another almost 5 million in next 10 days,” Planning Minister Asad Umar, who heads the NCOC, said in a tweet on Saturday.
Pakistan started its immunization campaign in February and has since administered about 13 million vaccine doses. So far, less than 3.46 million people out of the country’s population of 220 million have been fully vaccinated.