3 million ‘undocumented’ Pakistanis may miss out on COVID vaccines

A prove-your-identity condition may leave 3 million people in Pakistan without coronavirus vaccines, including mainly unregistered refugees, reported Anadolu Agency.

Currently, only Pakistani nationals or immigrants who have either Computerised National Identification Cards (CNIC) or official refugee status can receive the vaccines.

The country of over 207 million people has so far vaccinated nearly 3 million people, a ratio well below that of neighboring India.

According to Anadolu Agency report, over 1.5 million unregistered refugees living in Pakistan, particularly from neighboring Afghanistan, will miss out on the vaccination for not having identity documents.

Besides, thousands of CNIC have been blocked in recent years by the country’s registration authority, the National Database Registration Authority, for different reasons.

There are around 2.8 million documented and undocumented Afghan refugees in Pakistan, making it the world’s second-largest refugee population after Syrians in Turkey.

Among the 2.8 million, only around half of the refugees are registered.

Most of the undocumented refugees are living in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, which border the war-torn Afghanistan.

Apart from Afghan refugees, Pakistan, and mainly Karachi, also has a sizable population of unregistered Bengali, Nepali, and Rohingya immigrants.

“We have long been demanding that unnecessary conditions for vaccination will discourage millions to get vaccinated,” Anadolu Agency quoted as Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) general secretary Dr Qaisar Sajjad saying.

“It will simply tatter the benefits of the large-scale vaccination and the relentless efforts of the health professionals if such a huge portion of the population is not vaccinated just because they do not have identity cards,” he said.

When asked about any alternative ways to get vaccinated for unregistered refugees or citizens, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan told¬†Anadolu Agency¬†that refugees with “Proof of Registration (PoR)” cards issued by the government were allowed to get vaccinated.

However, he did not respond to a query about an alternative way for unregistered refugees.