Karachi’s Expo Centre experiencing shortage of only two vaccines

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Claim: Two mass Covid-19 vaccination centres in Karachi and Lahore are experiencing a shortage of the vaccine.
Fact: The claim is half true, half false. Karachi’s Expo Centre has run out of stock of the CanSino Bio and Sinopharm vaccines. Only AstraZeneca and Sinovac are available, while Sinopharm is only available for those returning for a second jab. The Pakistani government recently greenlit AstraZeneca for everyone above 18. Soch Fact Check has been unable to verify if Lahore’s Expo Center has vaccines in stock.

On 15 May, various Pakistani media outlets — including Dunya News and Geo.tv — broke news of a shortage of vaccines at Karachi’s mass vaccination camp, the Expo Centre, whereas ARY News reported that a similar issue has arisen at Lahore’s Expo Centre. The reports quickly made it to social media as well.

Soch Fact Check visited Karachi’s Expo Centre to verify these reports twice — June 15 and 16, 2021.

As of June 16, AstraZeneca is available at Karachi’s Expo Centre and has been approved by the Pakistani government for everyone above 18 years of age. The drug was restricted for those under 40 before June 15 in line with the restrictions around the world.

During the second visit to Karachi’s Expo Centre on 16 June, Soch Fact Check met Dr Raj Kumar — the doctor associated with the Sindh Health Department and in charge of advising people coming in for their vaccinations — and inquired about the supply situation.

Dr Kumar said Sinovac was being administered to those coming in for their first dose, Sinopharm for people returning for their second dose, and AstraZeneca was available for all above 18 years of age (Pakistan reversed its ban on AstraZeneca for individuals under 40 just a day prior). However, he said a “consent form for women” was a prerequisite to the jab.

Furthermore, a staff member at the registration desk, as well as the supervisor for one of the two vaccination halls at Expo Centre, told Soch Fact Check that Sinopharm was “out of stock” for those coming in for the jab for the first time but that Sinovac was available for the same people.

All three aforementioned officials at the Karachi Expo Centre were unable to give a date for the restocking of the Cansino vaccine, citing “uncertainties” and saying it could take “hours or days” to replenish the supplies. “We don’t know when it would be provided to us [but] AstraZeneca is open to all above 18 now,” stated one official.

‘Temporary issue’, to be resolved by next week

In a 16 June press conference, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on National Health Services Dr Faisal Sultan acknowledged that “there may be a shortage of vaccines in some centres” but assured that it was a “temporary issue” and would be resolved by next week.

Dr Sultan said it’s “very possible that a shortage may occur” as a varying number of people visit these centres every day but that the government is “employing load-balancing or redistribution” strategies locally and procuring “additional supply of the vaccines”.

“It’s a temporary issue and I believe it will be resolved in 3-4 days, or after June 20,” the aide said, advising people to extend the duration between their two doses as there “is no harm” in doing so.

Earlier, on 15 June, health staff, employees of the Sindh Health Department, officials at the registration desk, and doctors on the ground confirmed that AstraZeneca was available but CanSino, Sinopharm, and Sinovac were not.

Officials at the Expo Centre spoke to Soch Fact Check under the condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to speak to the media.

The same day, Soch Fact Check also spoke to a citizen waiting in the queue for his first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. He claimed he had visited Expo Centre Karachi at least twice since 5:30 AM but was turned away due to the shortage.

Conclusion: Reports of Covid-19 vaccine shortages, at least at Karachi’s Expo Centre, are partially true. At the time of publishing, only AstraZeneca and Sinovac are available, Sinopharm for second doses only, and Cansino out of stock.

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