Have you been jabbed?”
“So where did you go?”
“Which one did you get?”
If you have not been a part of this conversation recently you have clearly been living under a rock. Three things are clear though. Say what you like about the government, the one thing (and possibly the only one) they got right is the vaccination rollout. Whether you went to Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC) or SIUT or Khaliq Dina Hall, the vaccination camps were extremely well organised, with queues moving smoothly and a quick end process.
I went to JPMC and despite Ramzan and an unexpected turnout due to the SIUT and Khaliq Dina Hall lot being diverted to JPMC due to road blocks, the whole process took all of one hour. What surprised me, however, was the number of women – too few. The ladies queue was about one fourth the size of the gents.
That brings me to the second point – the number of naysayers and deniers. Apparently, one of the reasons why the age brackets have been rolled out faster than expected (not that I am complaining) is the low number of registrations. The deniers are the unparh as well as the parhay likhay jaahil who refuse to get vaccinations because of their steadfast belief that it will make men impotent and women infertile. And this is where government bodies and NGOs need to step in with communication that convinces and educates people on not just the efficacy of the vaccine, but also the safety. Pull in clerics, influencers and corporations. Many retail outlets are having their employees vaccinated free of cost and making it public as well which is truly commendable. Perhaps initiate college programmes to create ambassadors to influence those around them.
Given the fact that no mass educational/motivational campaign around Covid vaccination has been rolled out, this perhaps is an opportunity for brands. It will help rectify some of the misconceptions about the vaccinations as well. The side effects are minimal and vary from person to person. Vaccinations not only help protect us but protect those around us as well. We don’t become immune to the virus but recover faster if affected. Which means masking and social distancing still stays in place.
Finally, the debate about which vaccine to get.
Sinopharm versus Sputnik was contentious enough and then leapt in Sinovac and AstraZeneca. According to a friend who is a doctor, a vaccine is a vaccine and all that matters is that we get vaccinated. Which seems sensible enough. Which makes paying Rs 12,500 for a private vaccination seem fairly absurd when you can get the same for free. That is if you were lucky to be included in the ‘friends and family’ weekend slot before the vaccinations officially opened. Mismanaged and overpriced, the private scheme came to a grinding halt within days as the government programme opened age group after age group fairly rapidly. Kahani mein twist came with the surprise arrival of AstraZeneca and when the Expo Centre in Karachi turned into a mammoth vaccination centre, a fact bemoaned in many a drawing room.
“Oh my God! I paid Rs 12,000 for that Russian vaccine and my driver shriver got the gora vaccine for free. I can’t even go to Europe!”
Nobody seems to be going to Europe anytime soon.
S. Hyder is a creative working at a Pakistani advertising agency.