Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Young Pakistanis queue to pay for Russian jabs as private sales begin

Most queuing were young Pakistanis still not eligible for government’s free vaccination.

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Thousands of Pakistanis rushed to get inoculated over the weekend as Covid-19 vaccines went on sale, mostly on a first-come first-served basis.

Vaccination sites in the southern city of Karachi said on Sunday they had already sold out.

Pakistan is currently offering free vaccines to frontline healthcare workers and people over the age of 50, but the take-up has so far been slow, and last month the country allowed commercial imports by the private sector for the general public.

As soon as jabs were available for walk-in customers, there were long lines of people, Dr Nashwa Ahmed, who runs the vaccination programme at Karachi’s South City Hospital, told Reuters.

The hospital procured 5,000 doses of Sputnik V and in just over two days all its stock had been administered or pre-booked, said a hospital official who asked not to be identified.

Companies, including one of Pakistan’s largest banks, have also purchased large quantities to have staff inoculated, the official said.

The first round saw the commercial sale of the two-shot Russian Sputnik V to the general public for about 12,000 Pakistani rupees (US$80, RM330) for a pack of two doses.

Despite the cost, a number of centres offering the shot reported long queues, with some in Karachi waiting in line for close to three hours.

Most in the queue were young Pakistanis still not eligible for government’s free vaccination.

“I am very happy to get it, since now it is required for travelling,” Saad Ahmed, 34, told Reuters on Sunday after he got his shot at an upscale private sector hospital in Karachi.

While the private sale of vaccines has begun, the government and importers are still locked in a pricing dispute.

Pakistan initially agreed to exempt imported vaccines from price caps, but later rescinded the exemption and said it would set maximum prices.

One pharmaceutical company, which had already imported 50,000 doses of Sputnik V, took the government to court, where it won an interim order allowing it to sell it until pricing is decided.

The private sales start as the country deals with a fresh wave of Covid-19 infections and healthcare facilities are fast filling to capacity.

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