Young Pakistanis rush to buy Covid-19 vaccine through private sales

Young Pakistanis rush to buy Covid-19 vaccine through private sales
As commercial sales of the Russian vaccine were possible for the first time in Pakistan, thousands of Pakistanis rushed to get vaccinated.
3 min read
05 April, 2021
Some vaccinations sites of Karachi even ran out of doses [Getty]
Thousands of mostly young Pakistanis lined up this weekend to get their shot of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine, as the country opens private sales to the public.

Young people don't qualify for the free vaccination offered by the state to front-line healthcare workers and people over the age of 50, and rushed to pay the 12,000 Pakistani rupees ($80) for a pack of two doses of the vaccine available for the first time to the public, according to German media.

Some vaccination sites in Karachi quickly ran out of doses, and in some cases people had to wait for almost three hours, DW reported.

The national vaccination drive has been slow and Islamabad agreed in February to allow the commercial import and private sale of vaccines.

"I am very happy to get it, since now it is required for travelling," Saad Ahmed, 34, told Reuters after he got his shot in a Karachi hospital.

The sale of vaccines was initially supposed to be without price caps, which are usually set according to several economic factors, such as the price cap index, expected efficiency savings and inflation, but Pakistan later decided to set maximum prices.

Mainly hospitals, but also companies including one of Pakistan's largest banks, have acquired large quantities of the vaccine.

The free vaccination started in February with a donation of 500,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine by Beijing, but the country is now facing a spike of the pandemic with 3,568 patients reportedly in critical care according to Asad Umar, a cabinet minister.

A lot of misinformation on the vaccine goes around on social media, which poses a challenge to health officials and could slow the vaccination drive.

"Everyone is exposed to media. When educated people search for information about Covid vaccines on the internet, they come across false studies and become misguided," Noor Baig of the Aga Khan University Hospital in Karachi, told DW.

According to a survey published by survey research and consultancy firm Gallup Pakistan, 49 percent of the participants chose not to get the jab, 39 percent said that they will get vaccinated once the vaccine is available, and 31 percent of the participants said that they would prefer a Pakistan-made vaccine.

The UK recently added Pakistan to its so-called red list banning incoming travel to the country from 9 April citing coronavirus "variants of concern", along with Kenya, Bangladesh and the Philippines.

The country of 220 million has recorded so far 687,908 infections and 14,778 deaths, largely avoiding the kind of major lock-downs seen in other countries and instead opting for "smart" containment policies, which saw neighbourhoods closed off for short periods.

Soon after the pandemic started, Prime Minister Imran Khan told the nation in an address not to panic, saying "97 percent of patients fully recover".

He chided citizens just months later warning: "People are not taking it seriously."

Khan himself tested positive to the coronavirus at the end of March, two days after having been vaccinated.

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