Thousands of Pakistanis rushed to get inoculated in the first round of commercial sales of COVID-19 vaccines. It began over the weekend, with vaccination sites in Karachi saying 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 drive has thus far been slow. Last month the country allowed commercial imports by the private sector for the general public.
The first round saw the sale of the two-shot Russian Sputnik V to the public for Rs12,000 ($80) for a pack of two doses.
Despite the cost, a number of centers offering the shot reported long queues. Some in Karachi even waited 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 traveling,” Saad Ahmed, 34, told Reuters. 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 But later rescinded the exemption and said it would set maximum prices.
Russian Vaccine Sputnik V
A pharmaceutical company had already imported 50,000 doses of Sputnik V. It took the government to court and it won an interim order allowing it to sell it until pricing is decided.
As soon as vaccination was opened for walk-in customers, there were long lines of people. Dr. Nashwa Ahmed, who runs vaccination at Karachi’s South City Hospital, told Reuters.
Pictures of queues outside the hospital late into the night were shared on social media.
The hospital procured 5,000 doses of Sputnik V. In just over two days all its stock had been administered or pre-booked.
Companies, including one of Pakistan’s largest banks, have also purchased large quantities to have staff inoculated, the official said.
The private sales start as the country deals with a fresh wave of COVID-19 infections and healthcare facilities are fast filling to capacity.
The number of patients now in critical care has reached 3,568, the highest since the pandemic started, a cabinet minister, Asad Umar, said on Twitter. Pakistan has thus far reported 687,908 infections and 14,778 deaths.
What do you think of this story? Let us know in the comments section below.