Unvaccinated will have cell phone SIM cards blocked in Pakistan province
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PUNJAB, Pakistan, June 16, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — Only those vaccinated for COVID-19 will be able to make cell phone calls in the Punjab province of Pakistan, according to government officials.
“(A) final decision has been taken to block the mobile SIM cards of people not getting vaccinated,” Punjab Specialized Healthcare Department spokesman Syed Hammad Raza told Dawn, a Pakistani daily.
Punjab Health Minister Yasmin Rashid, who chaired the meeting of government officials who reached the decision, told Pakistan’s Express Tribune, “We are doing all we can to compel people to get vaccinated … The government cannot allow individuals, who do not want to get vaccinated, to risk lives of those who are already vaccinated.”
Rashid also reportedly said banning unvaccinated individuals from entry to parks, restaurants and malls would be proposed at a later stage.
Rashid said the plan would apply to those who fail to get vaccinated “beyond a certain time,” and that once the plan is approved by the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), government officials would “devise a timeline for the execution.”
The extreme measure is apparently an attempt to bolster “desperately low coverage” of vaccinations in Punjab, the most populous province in Pakistan.
Media outlets have revealed that the region has fallen far short of its vaccination targets. Dawn reported that the pace of the COVID-19 vaccination drive in Punjab was "dead slow," and that “till June 1, the government had vaccinated only 4.2m people out of 67m total target population in Punjab.”
An official of Pakistan's ministry of National Health Services (NHS) speculated that some people may have “fallen prey to negative propaganda regarding the vaccine,” Hindustan Times reported.
The World is One News (WION) reported March 22 that “vaccine hesitancy” was triggered across Pakistan when Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan tested positive for COVID-19 only two days after he was vaccinated. Khan received the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine, which was called the “most unsafe” vaccine “in the world” by Chinese doctor Dr. Tao Lina on social media before he retracted the statement.
Asad Umar, the minister in charge of Pakistan’s COVID-19 operations, insisted that Khan was infected prior to vaccination and that his symptoms were a delayed manifestation of that infection.
While the precise impact of the news of Khan’s infection is unclear, a March IPSOS poll shared that two in five Pakistanis are “against getting vaccinated” and 23 percent were worried about vaccine side effects, as WION reported.
Huma Yusuf, writing for Dawn, maintains that “vaccine hesitancy predates the COVID-19 pandemic” in Pakistan.
“A recent study by Monica Martinez-Bravo and Andreas Stegmann showed that after the CIA ploy to find Osama bin Laden using health workers pretending to carry out vaccinations, child vaccination rates decreased by between 23 percent and 39 percent in areas with support for religious groups,” wrote Yusuf on Monday.
More recently, WION shared that Pakistan has developed the single shot “PakVac” vaccine -- which is a local version of the Chinese Cansino vaccine -- in order to “boost its vaccination program.” During the official launch, Asad Umar, Minister for Planning and Development in Pakistan, lauded China’s help and said, “Pakistan is a country which considers itself to be the best friend of China, an iron brother of China.”
The proposal to block the SIM cards of unvaccinated Pakistanis takes on added significance because while a reported 75 percent of Pakistanis owned a mobile phone in 2020, only 35 percent were reported to have access to the internet, the common alternate form of wireless communication.