Feature by Fiza Hassan Khan

The corona pandemic has badly shaken the globe and impacted the world economy. The lethalCovid-19 virus has severely affected the health, education and industry sections across the sphere.

If we talk about the minorities during the Covid-19 pandemic, it appears encouraging that the minorities in Pakistan have been exercising the same facilities being enjoyed by the majority. In this context, an attempt was made to investigate and analyze the understanding of minorities specially those residing in Pakistan’s oldest living city of Multan in connection with Covid-19vaccination. This attempt was to know their perception, fears and the impact of vaccination among minorities.

The Sikh community is per-partition inhabitants of Multan and is mostly residing in Gulgasht an old part of the city.  Around 2 thousand Sikhs, from 12prominent Sikh families have been residing in Multan, mostly running their family businesses.

Pervinder Singh, 21, admits that in the beginning, he was afraid of Covid-19 vaccine considering it misgivings and a part of some conspiracy.

“However,our trust was reinstated when a number of people started getting vaccinated and then all eligible people from the community got themselves vaccinated,” he says.

Fateh Singh, another Sikh community member tells that he considered the vaccine as something very hazardous, believing that all those getting vaccinated will die in two years.

“But when my family members got vaccinated then I also realized that it is harmless especially when it comes to saving lives,” Fateh Singh elaborates.

Another Sikh community member Anmol Kumar, 22, shares that he had erroneous perceptions and suspicions about the vaccine as plenty of rumors were hovering around. “However,then to save my life, I got vaccinated happily,” he says.

Lipern Singh stated that he got vaccinated without any fear, hesitation, or any pressure by the government.

Jatinder Singh considered vaccines nothing than mere water. But feeling the heat of dangers of pandemic, he took his chance and got vaccinated. Now he feels safe and protected saying “all the thoughts earlier were just rumors.”

Apart from men, the women members from the Sikh community also shared their experiences.

Mehrinder Kaur, Gullainder Kaur, and Kuldeep Kaur say that their choice to get vaccinated followed by the men of their families. Their children also got vaccinated in the schools and whole procedure went fearlessly.

Similarly,in the local Christian neighborhood with a population around 50 thousand in Multan, Javaid disclosed that he was not bothered about getting vaccination at all. However, the real challenge he faced was when the government blocked his salary due to noncompliance of the government’s orders on vaccination. Hence,he had to receive vaccination.

Nadeem Masih, a grade-2 employee from Bahauddin Zakariya University narrated a very different story.

Nadeem shares that he was not interested in vaccine, because was “neither in favor,nor fearful of the vaccines.” The university stopped his salary making it conditional with a vaccination card. Following heavy economic pressure, Masih enrolled himself for vaccination at National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) and received two doses of Sinopharm. After vaccination, when he visited NADRA to receive his vaccination card, he was informed that his data was lost from the system and was refused to an issue of the card. Hence, he later-re-enrolled and received another two shots followed by a vaccination certificate.This is how his salary was released.   

Nadeem from the Christian community said that he suffered from the side effects of vaccine including numbness in the legs, which made him go on sick leaves for bed rest. Now, after 4-5 months he is “thankful to Jesus” that he saved his life.

Dr.Fareeha Hashmi from the Gulgasht Vaccination Center in Multan shared information on public perception about vaccine. Dr. Fareeha Hashmi says that during the initial phases, people arriving at the center for vaccination used to inquire about the existence of coronavirus or about various misconceptions about the vaccine. She told that around 195,000 people have been vaccinated at this center, adding that vaccine is for everyone regardless of their caste, color,religion, creed, or ethnicity.

“Now the situation has changed, Dr. Fareeha elaborated saying that so far 70 percent of the beneficiary of the center fearlessly and happily got vaccinated, whereas remaining 30 per cent received their shots due to travel requirement, employment,and educational institutes’ compulsions.” She also informed that around 70percent also received booster shots.

Translated by Anwer Abbas