Authorities in the Punjab province of Pakistan on Friday said it will block the mobile phones of people refusing to get Covid-19 vaccination shots.
It comes after Sindh province said civil servants who refuse to be vaccinated will not be paid from July.
“At first this was only a proposal, but people have been very hesitant in getting vaccinated so the decision was made,” said Hammad Raza, spokesman for the Punjab health department. He said the state telecoms agency will decide how to implement the measure.
Pakistan’s nationwide vaccination rollout has ramped up in recent weeks with more than 200,000 doses administered most days, but it adds up to only a fraction of the 220 million population.
Almost 10.5 million doses have been administered, with China supplying most of the vaccines.
Concerns of side effects, misinformation have sparked vaccine hesitancy.
“Pakistan’s education level is low. People are also spreading rumours and misinformation about the vaccines,” Salman Haseeb, the head of Pakistan’s Young Doctor’s Association, told AFP.
“So information campaigns by the government won’t work for the short-term. They will have to make use of the law to ensure everyone gets vaccinated.”
Under new incentives people who get vaccinated would be allowed to attend cinemas, celebration halls, and shrines, while restrictions will be lifted on businesses in districts with more than 20 percent of the population protected.
National data also shows that around 300,000 recipients of the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine haven’t returned for a second dose.
Pakistan has recorded more than 940,000 infections and 21,500 deaths, but experts say the numbers are a vast undercount.