As the world is gripped by the third wave of COVID-19, hope appears in the form of the various vaccines that have been developed to help prevent the infection from spreading unhindered. With the rapidly increasing number of cases, immunization has become the most important way to stop the virus. However, there also exists hesitancy in getting inoculated owing to the prevalent myths and disinformation spread by social media regarding the vaccines. This is coupled with the false impression that Pakistanis enjoy a more robust immune response that kept the infection from wreaking havoc during the first and second waves; the continually rising numbers of cases as well as fatalities are evidence that counters this belief. Pakistan is a country with limited resources and a healthcare system that cannot withstand the burden if there is an exponential rise the number of infections. We should take heed from the predicament that our neighbour India finds itself in. India’s healthcare system has collapsed under the pressure of the sharp rise in infections across the country. Our salvation lies in acting responsibly.
Vaccines are the most crucial element in the fight against COVID-19, and getting vaccinated is one of the best and fastest ways to protect ourselves and others, and to return to the normal way of life. Vaccination will be most beneficial if more people are inoculated in less time. Now that the vaccine is available, it gives us the best chance of coming out of the pandemic with the least amount of damage. Pakistan aims to immunize 70% of its population by the end of this year, but conspiracy theories, myths and disinformation delay acceptance of the vaccines and impede the mass immunization drive. Unfortunately, the kind of acceptance to conspiracy narratives that have caused failure of polio vaccination programs in the country is surfacing again. According to a study by Gallup Pakistan, 49% of the population is reluctant to get vaccinated even if the vaccine is offered free of cost. This mind-set is seriously going to jeopardise the government’s effort. Currently available data shows that only 2.1 million people have received vaccine shots so far. As a responsible society, we need to shun the myths and follow the health protocols to succeed in the battle against the disease.
Besides vaccination, as a society we also must adhere to SOPs pertaining to COVID-19 and continue to follow all of the recommended behavioural measures that reduce the spread of the disease till everybody is vaccinated in our country. It is the responsibility of all of us to engage in and coordinate the awareness-raising efforts in step with the government to educate people about the importance and efficacy of SOPs, like wearing masks and staying six feet apart, but these measures are not enough, therefore, educating people will help to build trust in the decision to offer vaccinations, without which, we will not be able to overcome the pandemic and return to ‘normal’ life.
As Ramzan is ending and people are busy preparing for Eid, we need to be extra cautious not only while we prepare for the festivities but also over the festival itself. This year, like the last, during this time of gratitude, happiness and festivities, we have to remember our social responsibility as well; our celebrations have to be modified according to our altered reality so that we can enjoy this time as well as stay safe and healthy, and protect our loved ones too. HH
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