Yasmin Rashid, the Health Minister of Pakistan's Punjab, on Monday warned people to get vaccinated at their own risk even as Prime Minister Imran Khan boasted of having received Coronavirus vaccines from China. According to a report by The News International, Dr Rashid advised people to inoculate at their "own risk", saying there were side effects related to the COVID-19 vaccine, which she also claimed caused "deaths in some countries."
"There have been deaths due to the COVID-19 vaccine in some countries as well; therefore, everyone will be vaccinated at their own risk," she said. Later, she clarified her statement saying that it was not possible as of now to say how long the vaccine will remain effective. "Research on the treatment of the coronavirus pandemic is still going on around the world," Yasmin Rashid said.
"No one, even the COVID-19 patients, will be vaccinated by force. We will make the public aware of the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine," she said.
Meanwhile, Pakistan on Monday received the first batch of 500,000 doses of the Coronavirus vaccine donated by its 'all-weather friend' China as the country gears up to kick start its immunisation drive later this week. The vaccines were flown in from China on a special plane of the Pakistan Air Force. The consignment was formally handed over to Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi by Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Nong Rong at Nur Khan Air Base in Rawalpindi.
Alhamdulilah the first batch of Sinopharm vaccine has arrived! Grateful to China and everyone who made this happen. NCOC & provinces played an instrumental role in tackling COVID. I salute our frontline healthcare workers for their efforts & they'll be first to get vaccinated— Faisal Sultan (@fslsltn) February 1, 2021
Pakistan will start its vaccination drive later this week, beginning with frontline health workers. So far, over 400,000 health professionals have applied for the jabs. Next, citizens over 65 years would be vaccinated; their registration will start in 10 to 15 days, according to Planning Minister Asad Umar.
Apart from the free vaccine doses which arrived on Monday, Pakistan will buy another 1.1 million jabs from China, while international vaccine alliance Covax has promised 17 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in the first half of the year. The Covax route is Pakistan's way of circumventing the fact that the vaccine would be made in India.
At the ceremony in Nur Khan Ar Base, Qureshi said China had once again given a practical demonstration of its friendship with Pakistan. "This year is even more significant as it marks 70 years since we established diplomatic ties. We have planned to celebrate [the milestone] and open new doors of cooperation and friendship," he said.
The minister appreciated the top Chinese leadership and its Army for critical help in tackling the pandemic. Chinese Ambassador Rong said Pakistan is the first country to receive the COVID-19 vaccines for free from the Chinese government.
He said China sees Pakistan as its "closest friend" and "priority for cooperation". On 70 years of diplomatic ties, Rong said, "Our friendship is higher than mountains, deeper than the sea and sweeter than honey. Our hearts grow closer in the joint fight against COVID-19."
Prime Minister Imran Khan said that his government would provide anti-coronavirus vaccine to everyone without any discrimination. "Rich and poor will not matter. We will try to cover as many people as possible," he said. The government plans to administer the vaccine to the entire population during the current year, Radio Pakistan quoted Khan as saying. Khan also said that the frontline health workers would be vaccinated in the first phase followed by elderly people and those with medical conditions.
(With agency inputs)