As the world endeavours to regain some semblance of normalcy, low- and middle-income countries like Pakistan continue to battle inadequate vaccine supplies and high vaccine hesitancy. For the Ismaili community in Pakistan, mass vaccination drives were organised by the National Council for Pakistan to ensure herd immunity against COVID-19. The inoculation camps were led by a dedicated TKN taskforce comprised of health professionals, data scientists, designers and volunteer stewards.

“The Council has taken a tremendous step with the COVID vaccination campaign,” said Naurin Shivji a nurse working at a facility. “TKN and other Jamati volunteers have played a critical role in managing this pandemic. Frontline workers helped the Council stay connected with families and provided mental health counselling, medical guidance and support to those in need,” she added.

High risk groups were identified first based on the WHO recommended policy on prioritised vaccine allocation. Despite granting access to larger segments once the vulnerable were immunised, apprehension and scepticism surrounding the COVID-19 vaccines prevented many from getting jabbed. Hence, TKN volunteers were also involved in building public trust and addressing the stigma regarding immunisation.

According to TKN volunteer Salima Rajwani, “The entire campaign helped the Jamat handle the pandemic effectively. It is remarkable how perceptive our leadership is even in times as trying as a pandemic. We should thank our leaders for their successful planning and rapid response.” Salima Rajwani has been involved with the vaccination program since its inception.

In addition to the challenge of communicating the consequences of vaccine hesitancy, volunteers also have the massive logistical responsibility of administering the vaccines safely, transporting vaccine vials efficiently to different vaccination centres, and maintaining the cold chain essential for safe vaccine storage. While frontline workers were primarily involved in inoculation drives, artists creatively marketed the crucial importance of this major campaign in reducing COVID-19 prevalence and data teams analysed vaccination trends within the community.

Dr Zeenat Arif Jumani had previously volunteered in COVID-19 patient management and was also involved in the mass vaccination campaign. She recalled how a patient walked up to her and thanked her for her service to humanity, “I was surprised at first. I wondered how a person I have never met came up to me to thank me. Later, she told me how I had helped her family recover. It is in moments like this when you understand the impact your service is creating.” Dedicated volunteers like Dr Jumani and her team have been central to the success of this campaign. Due to the inspiring efforts of 400 TKN and other volunteers, the Jamat was immunised at their neighbourhood vaccination camps.

As we approach the two-year mark of the COVID-19 pandemic, permanent reprieve still eludes us despite massive vaccination drives. New waves of infections keep erupting in many parts of the world due to the emergence of new variants. Nonetheless, the most effective way to keep the COVID-19 spread at bay remains mass vaccination. Large-scale inoculation initiatives like that of the Ismaili community in Pakistan are pivotal in the establishment of more resilient societies after the crisis. In a globally interconnected and dependent world, with a virus that keeps getting more infectious with every mutation, no one is safe until everyone is safe.