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Watchdog demands subsidized Covid vaccines in Pakistan

HRCP says low-income groups are suffering from the government's 'pro-rich policies'

Watchdog demands subsidized Covid vaccines in Pakistan

Father Riaz Ghosal (left) and Caritas Pakistan Multan team members distribute food in Liaqatpur last October among 50 families affected by Covid-19 and flooding. (Photo: Prince Alvin)

Published: January 20, 2021 08:58 AM GMT

Updated: January 20, 2021 08:59 AM GMT

Pakistan's independent human rights watchdog has raised concerns over the federal government's decision to ask provinces and private entities to import Covid-19 vaccines.

“It is the government's responsibility to provide subsidized vaccines to the working class, which forms the bulk of Pakistan's population. Lower-income groups are struggling to survive the economic crisis engendered by the misplaced priorities and pro-rich policies of the federal government. The aid received and funding allocated to fight the pandemic must be used transparently and spent on vaccinating citizens,” the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said in a Jan. 19 statement.

National Command and Operations Centre (NCOC) chief Asad Umar said last weekend that provinces, private sector organizations or hospitals can import Covid-19 vaccines approved by the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan.

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The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has been approved for emergency use in Pakistan, making it the first vaccine to get the green light for use in the South Asian country.

As a new coronavirus variant threatens prevention measures to curb the pandemic, Pakistan's coronavirus death toll has surged to 11,103.

On Jan. 19, Pakistan's case tally stood at 523,011 with 1,800 new infections recorded in the previous 24 hours. NCOC data shows that 40,833 people have tested positive since the beginning of the new year at an average of 2,268 infections per day.

Dr. Nabeel Saqib, a Christian World Health Organization official, supported calls for a nationwide vaccination campaign.

“However, if the rich are being vaccinated and protected, it will benefit the poor as well. At least it’s better than waiting for a vaccine in the market. It will have a good amount of impact on the overall population,” he told UCA News.

According to Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, prices of food commodities increased by 5 percent last week. Inflation in Pakistan was at 8 percent in December, the highest among Asian economies tracked by Bloomberg.

A study by Pakistan Partnership Initiative, a Christian organization based in Islamabad, claims that the income of churches dipped by up to 80 percent during Pakistan’s nationwide lockdown last year. Seventy percent of Christians, particularly daily-wagers and laborers, lost their jobs or reported reduced income.

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