Confusion prevails among Covid-19 survivors over vaccination – Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: While around one million people have been declared Covid-19 positive through lab tests, the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) lacks a clear policy regarding vaccination of those who have contracted the virus.

On the other hand, as the demand for the Pfizer vaccine increased, the government has decided to administer the vaccine only to immuno-compromised persons.

Moreover, the country reported the lowest number of cases – 1,019 – since February 15. The number of active cases, which was over 90,000 in April, has also dropped to 41,726.

On patient, aged over 90 years, died of the virus and 40 new cases were reported in the federal capital on Monday.

It may be noted that around one million people in the country have been confirmed to be infected through lab tests but according to antibodies tests conducted by the National Institute of Health (NIH) and other organisations, the number of confirmed cases is tenfold higher.

Moreover, there are a large number of people whose family members had developed Covid-19 but they did not get them tested despite developing symptoms. Such people do not know when they should get themselves vaccinated or even if it is necessary to get inoculated.

Mohammad Naeem, 44, a resident of Islamabad, said a few months ago he lost his senses of smell and taste due to which he talked to a doctor and was suggested to get himself tested for Covid-19.

“I could not afford the test due to its high cost in private labs. However, I was sure that I had Covid-19. So after recovering, I had an antibodies test, which is cheaper, from a private lab. It confirmed that I had contracted the virus. Last month, I received the first shot of the vaccine without knowing if it was right time or not,” he said.

Maqbool Ahmed, 48, also a resident of Islamabad, said he had contracted Covid-19 two months ago and suffered so much that a doctor suggested steroids and other costly medicines.

“Though I have recovered, I do not know how long I should wait as antibodies have already developed in my body. As I have not seen any advisory, I have decided not to get myself inoculated,” he said.

On the other hand, a government officer, requesting not to be quoted, said he had contracted the virus and remained isolated. After getting a negative report, he rejoined his office.

“However, my senior officer told me that I should get myself inoculated if I want to continue working. I told him that as per material available on the internet, I should wait for six weeks to three month but my officer told me to provide any advisory issued by the government. I failed to find any document so I got myself inoculated just one week after recovering from the disease,” he said.

A senior official at the NIH said though no such advisory was issued, people can get themselves vaccinated any time after recovery.

“All guidelines rule out vaccination to only those currently infected or suspected to be infected,” he said.

Member of the Scientific Task Force on Covid-19 Prof Dr Javed Akram told Dawn that every person should be vaccinated whether they had contracted the virus or not.

“Though antibodies are developed in a patient they are not neutralising antibodies which means that a person can contract the virus again. The vaccine prepared neutralising antibodies which protect people from the virus for up to one year,” he said.Meanwhile, NCOC data showed that 1,019 cases and 34 deaths were reported in a single day. This was the lowest cases since February 15 when 958 cases were reported.

The number of active cases was 41,726 as of June 14 and 2,926 patients were hospitalised.

As the demand for American Pfizer vaccine increased, a large number of people reached the vaccination centre at F-9 Park to get Pfizer vaccine. Failing to get vaccine, they started protesting. District Health Officer (DH) Dr Zaeem Zia said the Pfizer vaccine will be administered from 10am to 2pm but to only those suffering from chronic diseases such as cancer.

An official of the Ministry of National Health Services said the Pfizer vaccine had arrived through Covax and there were only 100,000 doses in Pakistan.

“It means that only 50,000 people can be vaccinated, he added.

Published in Dawn, June 15th, 2021