COVID-19 vaccination almost out of reach for poor people, refugees in Pakistan

·4-min read
A COVID-19 vaccination awareness campaign held in Lahore (Photo Credit - France24)
A COVID-19 vaccination awareness campaign held in Lahore (Photo Credit - France24)

Islamabad [Pakistan], June 9 (ANI): In Pakistan, where nearly a quarter of the population lives below the poverty line, getting vaccinated against COVID-19 has become very difficult for them as well as for the refugees who are residing in the country.

The COVID-19 vaccination campaign is exposing inequality. France 24 in a report covered this inequality with their correspondents Shahzaib Wahlah and Sonia Ghezali.

"A large part of the population of Lahore neighbourhood is illiterate. No one has proper access to information about COVID-19 vaccination campaign that started in country last April," said Shahzaib Wahlah.

The poorest have little access to information and rumours about the vaccine thrive, reported France24.

"There are many rumours circulating, according to some there is a micro-chip inside the vaccine which controls the vaccinated person. here is also a new rumour that people die within two-years after receiving the vaccine. None of this is true," reported Shahzaib Wahlah.

He informed about a civil society activist Ammar Ali Jan from People's Rights Movement, who is raising awareness about the vaccination with the help of volunteers in Lahore.

In vaccination awareness campaign, an expert answered the doubts about the vaccination to the general masses. Nousheen Zaidi, a Biologist was seen answering to the queries of the people.

When asked about the dangers of getting jabbed with Chinese vaccines to the people who are suffering from Diabetes and high blood pressure, she said, "No, but COVID is high risks for diabetic person so they should get vaccinated ASAP, reported Sonia Ghezali.

"All the education campaign that the government is launching is through Twitter. It's not used by working-class communities at all. They are falling prey to really vicious propaganda. Corona will become problem of just poor communities not getting vaccinated," said Ammar Ali Jan.

"Poor areas will be seen as places of disease, covid among other diseases. We have to resist that future," added Ammar Jan.

"My whole family was against vaccinated. But after this talk, we think we should," said a participant after attending the awareness campaign.

Later, Ammar Ali Jan offered to take the participants to the nearest vaccination centre to get them jabbed. Also paying for the fare as they cannot afford it, reported the correspondents.

The vaccination centre was overwhelmed. The women accompanied by Ammar Jan waited, while he tried to obtain their vaccination being refused several times.

"They waited for several hours, while others who just arrived were taken care of," said Ammar Jan when a Ranger got vaccinated out of turn.

"I have been waiting here for hours, the Rangers who arrived here got vaccinated out of turn. There are people here who are waiting for six hours, you can't do this. This is illegal. We are being discriminated as we are poor," said a candidate at the vaccination centre.

"It is very difficult for us to come here because vaccination centres are far away from where we live. We can't even afford to pay for public transport. We will have to go hungry. It seems nobody care about us. People who have higher connections are getting jabbed," said a lady who arrived at the vaccination centre.

While the scene at Islamabad vaccination centre is entirely different. Everyday 7,000 persons get vaccinated in a serene atmosphere, reported the France24 correspondents.

"Quite easy, quite quick, I was not expecting this. It took less than 5 minutes to get jabbed," said a man who was there to get jabbed.

Barely one per cent of the population has been vaccinated and South Asia has become the pandemic's epicentre, a source of major concern, reported France24.

Inequality in the vaccination campaign worries the health experts like Dr Rana Jawad Asghar.

"My impression is that most of the people who are vaccinated are educated people, well-do-to people, not the poor people. Without vaccine equity, even if you have 20-30 per cent population protected, you are not protected from the outbreak. The vulnerable people will be moving around you and you will get infected by some variant which has been reported from some slum area," said Asghar.

Meanwhile, some suburbs of Lahore a large part of population is not entitled for the vaccine because of their irregular status. A valid identity document is required to get vaccinated in Pakistan. Most of the inhabitants of this area are refugees from Afghanistan.

Millions of Afghan refugees or illiterate Pakistanis do not have the identity documents required to obtain the jab.

"All 10 who are working here have expired papers. My refugee card expired 10 years ago. Nobody cares about us, we are human beings, but no vaccination for us. If an Afghan is infected here, he can infect somebody else. Covid does not differentiate between a Afghan or a Pakistani," said Abdul Zahir, Afghan refugee.

There are estimated 3 million undocumented people living in Pakistan. (ANI)