Technological adoption

The vaccination drive against fighting Covid-19 is being administered in full swing across the country as the number of citizens having received doses surged over 1 million, increasing on a daily basis in Pakistan, which is a good sign for the future.
Long queues are visible as a large number of citizens rush to various hospitals and vaccination centres amid fear of the deadly pandemic which caused precious loss of lives of more than 23,000 in Pakistan and over 4.2 million worldwide. Besides protection from Covid-19 and its new delta version, the reasons behind the long queues of citizens is the purpose of getting a vaccination card for their jobs and businesses, whereas a significant section of the people are seriously afraid of the government’s warning of blocking SIM cards if they remain unvaccinated.
The mobile phone is the single largest utility service in Pakistan, which could better connect the government with citizens directly to achieve the vaccination process in the best possible way. The government is utilising it at a very low scale presently but the technology has more potential to be explored at a very reasonable investment.
For instance, an app could help a citizen find the nearest vaccination centre, choose a suitable and low-turn out time, the vaccination of his choice and genuine acceptable proof that he/she is vaccinated. The app could help the government in keeping the masses updated including educating them, particularly foreign and domestic travellers and medical/vaccination staff about the emerging requirements.
There are over 100 million subscribers of smartphone users in Pakistan as per the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and over 184 million subscribers of mobile phone services. In addition to an app, most rudimentary communication could be made through SMS. Initially, the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) was informing applicants about designated vaccination centres on request through SMS (1166). Not only would citizens receive a code but a location of the vaccination centre as well. But later the SMS also issued codes to applicants in most cases.
Queues are not only violations of SOPs of social distancing but are threats as well. Citizens are suffering waiting for hours at the vaccination centres; there is even no special facilitation point for senior citizens, disabled persons, injured and pregnant women. Provincial governments are setting up more and more centres and camps but people are being treated poorly.
There is a shortage of staff for inoculation of doses in some areas as well. There are also reports that many computers stopped working at a few centres due to a technical fault. Vaccination cards were running short and even the stock of vaccination was not available for citizens, waiting for hours for their turns at the centres.
All such loopholes should be addressed immediately by the concerned ministry at provincial levels. These could be done effectively through the use of technology which will provide greater convenience to the public and accelerate the pace of the drive effectively. According to the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), more than 12 million Pakistanis have been fully vaccinated and over 37 million citizens have only received their first dose of vaccine. The government’s target is to provide vaccines to 100 million citizens at the shortest possible time. Considering the present situation, there is a long way to go and the pandemic is not going anywhere in the foreseeable future. The booster dose is suggested to be required for a million citizens in the future for special needs.
NCOC, the central platform, should not only regulate the vaccination drive through issuing guidelines from time to time but it should also monitor the system holistically which also includes the issues and challenges of the public. The use of technology will not only enable the government to effectively carry out vaccination drives in different provinces but will save a lot of time for the public and aid the government in resuming economic activities in the new normal.

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