Pakistan expands COVID vaccination drive amid Omicron fears

Authorities to set up 40 call centres to follow up with citizens who missed their second dose.

A man receives the Pakvac COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination center in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, Oct. 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

Pakistan’s government will step up COVID-19 vaccination efforts and is expanding the criteria for vaccine booster shots, amid fears of the Omicron variant, authorities say.

On Wednesday, the leadership of the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), which is heading the country’s COVID-19 response efforts, held a meeting in the capital Islamabad to review steps to curb the spread of the virus.

Authorities will set up 40 call centres to follow up with citizens who have missed their second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, a statement issued after the meeting said.

Booster doses will also be administered to healthcare workers or citizens who are either over the age of 50 or are immunocompromised.

Pakistan has not yet detected Omicron, which was first designated a variant of concern by the World Health Organization on Friday.

On Wednesday, the South Asian country recorded 377 new cases of the coronavirus, with eight deaths recorded, taking the country’s total death toll since the pandemic began to 28,745.

Pakistan saw its fourth wave of the virus peak in August, and daily cases have been close to all-time lows in recent weeks.

The government’s vaccination efforts have seen more than 50.7 million Pakistanis, out of a population of 220 million, fully vaccinated, although a significant number of others have only received one dose, according to government data.

Last week, the NCOC banned inbound travel to Pakistan from seven countries or territories where Omicron had been detected, including Botswana, Eswatini, Hong Kong, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, and South Africa.

Source: Al Jazeera