Pakistan kicks off COVID vaccination drive for senior citizens

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Pakistan has begun vaccinating citizens over the age of 60 against the coronavirus, officials say, kicking off the second phase of a countrywide campaign that has seen a slow start so far.

Senior citizens across the country began to receive the first dose of the vaccine at adult vaccination centres on Wednesday, after the country’s health minister announced the launch of the new phase of the campaign earlier this week.

“I knew that as soon as the vaccine comes, I must take it,” said Basharat Ali Zaidi, 88, a retired telecom engineer in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi, who was among the first senior citizens to receive the vaccine.

“I spoke to my son about it, we registered online and [at the vaccination centre today] filled out the form and […] then after two or four questions about whether I had any allergies … they gave me the vaccine,” he said.

More than 300,000 people aged over 60 have registered to receive the vaccine, Health Minister Dr Faisal Sultan said.

“[The] process started today prioritising with the oldest citizens, that is over 80, and [we] will work our way down. The over-60 registration is around 300,000 to date but increasing every day,” he said.

The senior citizens have been instructed to register themselves using their government-issued National Identity Card numbers via SMS.

After their details are verified against a government database, they will be issued instructions on when and where to receive the vaccine.

Vaccine recipients will be asked to remain on-site at the vaccination centres for roughly 30 minutes after receiving the vaccine to monitor for any side-effects.

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