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Vaccine hesitancy in Karachi

The fifth wave of the Coronavirus driven by the Omicron variant has caused fear and panic as the cases surge at a rapid speed across the country, especially in Karachi. The metropolis where the first case of the new ‘super spreader’ variant was discovered on December 13 last year witnessed a worrying rise in new daily cases of the disease with the positivity ratio rising to over 30 percent on Friday. The provincial government – who had this time last year tried to convince the centre to impose a complete lockdown amid rising cases then – is now waiting on the directives of the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) to devise a plan to mitigate the spread.

Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah recently stated that the decision to impose a lockdown in the city and close schools will be taken on the NCOC’s advice. He also mentioned that despite the surge in cases there is no pressure on hospitals as the number of patients on ventilators was low. Thus, no ban on holding large gatherings has been imposed, case in point: Karachi Eat 2022, nor a robust vaccination campaign launched. And there lies the problem with Sindh government’s management of the pandemic.

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In a recently released investigative report by the PPI news agency, it has been stated that misinformation and disinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine was the primary reason behind at least half of Karachi’s population – mainly females and those working in informal sectors – to refuse getting jabbed. According to official data, only 6.7 million out of 12.85 million (52 percent) of the city’s eligible population have been inoculated against the virus. The report suggests that the rest of the citizens are vaccine hesitant, owing to rumours and myths relating to the virus.

It is pertinent to note that these myths, from becoming infertile to dying in two years from being jabbed, have been doing rounds since the vaccine was announced. It is then a wonder why the provincial government has done little to nothing to address the issue. Experts have suggested that while following Coronavirus-related SOPs curtails the spread, it is the vaccine which is the most effective. It is then upon the ruling PPP in the province to launch a door-to-door campaign to advocate people for the vaccine and clear any misconceptions, especially in far-flung localities. No one will be safe, until everyone is safe.


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