In a press briefing today, Provincial Minister of Punjab for Primary and Secondary Healthcare and Specialised Healthcare and Medical Education Dr Yasmin Rashid confirmed that Punjab and all other provinces will start COVID-19 vaccination drives from Wednesday, February 3.
“All frontline and healthcare workers will be provided vaccines within the next 4 to 5 months. The process will start the day after tomorrow, and will then continue,” the minister said.
The first consignment of the COVID-19 vaccine from China arrived in Pakistan today. A special plane of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) landed in Islamabad on Monday morning with 0.5 million doses of Sinopharm vaccine gifted by China.
Sources suggest that Punjab has received 70,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines from the federal government.
China has promised Pakistan 500,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine. Additionally, it was confirmed on Saturday that Pakistan has secured 17 million doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines through COVAX, the World Health Organisation (WHO) initiative to distribute vaccines to developing countries.
It was previously announced that Sindh would launch its vaccination drive for healthcare workers on Wednesday. Other provinces in the country will also now start vaccination drives on the same day.
Universal health coverage in Punjab
In the press briefing, the Provincial Minister also announced that Punjab would become the recipient of universal health coverage by the end of this year. Today, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa became the first province to avail universal health coverage through the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government’s Insaf Sehat Card initiatives.
“By the end of this year, 29.3 million families in Pubjab will have health cards,” Dr Yasmin Rashid said. “In this financial year, Sahiwal division and Dera Ghazi Khan division will be 100% covered. The rest of the divisions will be covered by December 2021.”
Progress in healthcare
Outlining the progress made in Pakistan’s healthcare sector under the PTI government, Dr Yasmin Rashid mentioned increased employment and medicine procurement within the health sector.
“Ever since we came into government, we have done a lot of work in healthcare. We hired 32,000 new employees in the health sector, including doctors, nurses, paramedics, pharmacists,” she said. “We hired male nurses for the first time.”
“We reserved Rs 42 billion for medicines and distributed it to hospitals to ensure there is free medication for patients,” she added. “We have maintained lists of Tuberculosis, Hepatisis, and AIDS patients, and provide them free medication.”
“We procured Rs 10 billion rupees worth of medical equipment this year,” Dr Yasmin Rashid said.
The Minister also said that the government has two surveillance teams dedicated to healthcare, and hospitals are checked daily to ensure the maintenance of standards. She said that Chief Minister of Punjab Usman Buzdar has given directions that if any patient anywhere is inconvenienced, the relevant authorities are to be taken to task.
In the press briefing, Dr Yasmin Rashid also said that the PTI government has worked to increase employment and salaries within Pakistan’s healthcare sector.
She said that the PTI government has converted 44 nursing schools into colleges, and nurses’ stipend has been raised from Rs 21,000 to Rs 31,000. The number of seats have also been increased from 1,600 to 2,350, she said.
Referring to the issuance of health cards for medical insurance, the Minister said that providing universal healthcare to the people of Pakistan is the vision of the Prime Minister, as well as the Punjab Chief Minister.
“Our country’s people are our assets,” she declared. “If we provide them with good health and education facilities, this nation will prosper.”