Public health officials and economists agree that the best way for any country to return to normalcy is to vaccinate the majority of the population while bearing in mind key measures like handwashing, wearing a mask, social distancing, and avoiding crowded places. Pakistan is currently facing its third Covid wave but the government, as always, is unprepared.
Most countries have started large-scale vaccination programs but in Pakistan, as Faisal Bari, an associate professor of economics at LUMS, notes, “we have only had a ‘gift’ of a couple of million doses. It seems some purchase orders are in transit and under negotiation. But all told, these are still no more than a few million doses. Total administered doses are less than one million to date. And our population is some 220m.” Where is Pakistan going to get the vaccines to vaccinate 100-150 million people?
Bari asks key questions of which we do not know the answers: “Did the government delay the purchase of vaccines? Were they too comfortable thinking that there will be either large donations or that herd immunity will develop to the point that we would survive without undergoing a large-scale vaccination effort? Was it miscalculation, incompetence or was it a plan to not spend money on vaccination (outright expenditure) and let people pay the price through individual business or other losses and a higher loss of life and health?”
Finally as Bari notes that if the government does not bring “urgency to our vaccination effort and do not increase the speed of administration and the size of the program, the lockdowns and/or disruptions to business and life might have to continue for longer. This will cost us a lot more in terms of money and lives than spending on vaccines. Will the government have a rethink and recalibrate?”