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Pakistan’s Punjab: No COVID-19 vaccination, no mobile phone!

Pakistan’s Punjab: No COVID-19 vaccination, no mobile phone!
Punjab Health Minister Yasmin Rashid
Written by Harry Johnson

According to Punjab’s Health Minister, new policy would disable mobile SIM cards belonging to those who fail to get jabbed “beyond a certain time.”

  • The government cannot allow individuals, who do not want to get vaccinated, to risk lives of those who are already vaccinated
  • Punjab government is aiming to vaccinate 40 million residents by November
  • Authorities might also ban unvaccinated people from going to parks, restaurants and malls

The government of Pakistan’s Punjab province is resorting to rather unorthodox and draconian measures to motivate local residents to participate in Punjab’s COVID-19 vaccination program.

Yesterday, the provincial officials announced plans to disable the SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) cards of people who refuse to get vaccinated.

The announcement was made by Punjab’s Primary and Secondary Health Department after a meeting of high-ranking civil and military officials chaired by Punjab Health Minister Yasmin Rashid.

“Mobile SIMS of people not getting vaccinated may be blocked,” the department wrote. 

According to Punjab’s Health Minister, new policy would disable mobile SIM cards belonging to those who fail to get  jabbed “beyond a certain time.” 

“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,” the health minister said.

She said that the provincial government would devise a timeline for the policy’s implementation once it received formal approval from the National Command and Operation Center, which coordinates Pakistan’s national response to COVID-19. 

The Punjab government will seek help from the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) in order to implement the policy.

The measure is designed to counter “negative propaganda” about the jab and ensure that vaccination targets are met. The provincial government is aiming to vaccinate 40 million residents by November. 

In addition to the SIM card restrictions, authorities might also ban unvaccinated people from going to parks, restaurants and malls. 

Punjab is the most populous province of Pakistan, containing more than half the country’s total population, as well as the country’s second-largest city, Lahore. The regional government began its vaccination drive in March, but has struggled to drum up enthusiasm for the public health initiative. Mobile vaccination camps are being deployed near religious shrines across the province in an effort to make the jab more accessible. 

Punjab isn’t the only region in Pakistan to take a more extreme approach to vaccination. In Sindh province, plans have been announced to stop the salaries of government employees who refuse to receive the jab.