Vaccination of people against Covid-19 has been suspended almost across Punjab due to delay in supply of the vaccines from the federal government, triggering a protest at Expo Centre on Saturday.
Besides other cities, the service at Lahore’s main vaccination centres was suspended, while the hospitals also ran out of vaccine stock. At some vaccination centres, the jabs were reportedly administered to influential individuals, while other citizens were turned away.
Frustrated citizens seeking vaccination clashed with the staff at the Expo Centre in Johar Town. The protesters smashed the windowpanes and forcibly entered the vaccination centre.
On the other hand, the Vaccination Monitoring Centre at the primary and secondary healthcare department also stopped work. The monitoring room was reportedly advised to stop issuing updates regarding the vaccination till further orders. However, the department’s spokesperson insisted that sufficient amount of the vaccines was available.
The vaccination process started with an aim to inoculate 40 million people in the province was almost completely suspended after covering a few million people. Vaccination centres set up in almost all districts were closed.
According to sources, the stock of vaccines at the all vaccination centres have dried except for a few big facilities where some dozes are allegedly being administered on the basis of favouritism. Punjab government had set up 677 vaccination centres in the 36 districts of the province and the health department was claiming that around 400,000 people would be inoculated daily after the next month.
However, the claims have proved wrong and now only a few people have access to the vaccines.
“A critical situation regarding the vaccination was witnessed in all districts, especially the big cities, including Lahore, Rawalpindi, Sialkot, Faisalabad, Multan, Chakwal, Gujranwala, Narowal and Gujrat,” a senior official of the provincial health department told The Express Tribune.
The official said the administrations of the centres had to pacify people and persuade them not to protest in several areas.
“There is shortage of the vaccines in Punjab like other provinces and it is beyond our comprehension why the issue has arisen at a time when we were near winning the war against coronavirus. We are asking the health ministry for the vaccines but are not getting any response,” he said. The official said the drive-through, senior citizens’ and departmental vaccination facilities had been halted as a result of the shortage.
Crowds of people were also seen at hospitals for vaccination. The department had allowed hospitals to administer the vaccines but there was no vaccine available at Lahore’s major health facilities.
“A couple of days ago, there were just 60 doses available at Ganga Ram Hospital but they have been used,” said a vaccinator.
Besides the main centres and hospitals, the service at a number of facilities set up for the purpose in the city was suspended, including one for teachers at Wahdat Road, medical students, professors and employees at Punjab University and people with special needs at Fountain House.
A violent protest took place at Expo Centre where a mob barged into the building. The administration called police who controlled the protesters.
“We have been coming here for vaccination for the past four days but the officials are repeatedly telling us that they have no vaccines, Jamil Ahmed.
Health department spokesperson Sayed Hamad Raza said in reply to a question, “The protesters at Expo Centre were those who wanted the AstraZeneca vaccine but we don’t have that vaccine.” However, there were also allegations at some centres that people seeking a particular vaccine were being asked to sign a consent form.