back to article Pakistan's Punjab province tells citizens to get jabbed or have their SIM card blocked

The government of Pakistan's Punjab region has a new weapon up its sleeve in the fight against vaccine hesitancy: blocking the mobile service of anyone who refuses to get jabbed. As reported by local newspapers , and confirmed by the Punjab health authority, those who swerve the COVID-19 vaccine may find their mobile SIM " …

  1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Hmm, awkward

    People should get vaccinated, but governments shouldn't force them. On this occasion, I therefore find myself on the side of the religious nutjobs who are endangering not only themselves but also their friends and families.

    1. ThomH Silver badge

      Re: Hmm, awkward

      It's not forcing them, it's at most coercing them.

      But that aside, it feels proportionate to me. Typhoid Mary lost her liberty for egregiously refusing to believe that she was highly infectious, evidence be damned.

      So just losing your phone during a public medical emergency because you refuse to act rationally and are potentially endangering others is fair enough.

      You know, given that it's already well-established that the liberty of individuals can be restricted for the benefit of society, and that actions should be punishable orthogonally to consequences.

      1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: Hmm, awkward

        Well throwing someone in jail wouldn't be *forcing* them, but I doubt people would see it that way. Vaccination is a medical intervention and there is much to be said for the principle that the state should keep out of people's bodies. If your society is so broken that rational argument isn't sufficient to ensure that most people take up vaccination voluntarily, then you aren't going to fix it by saying to all of these people "You really ought to let us inject you with something that we know is biologically active.".

        Looking at it from another perspective, if you were already sufficiently skeptical of the vaccine that you were refusing it, would government bullying make you more likely to acquiesce? I suspect not. Instead, this policy will entrench the belief that the vaccine is to be resisted. Whilst I accept that society can force an issue of public good over personal freedom, I don't believe this will have the effect that it is hoped to have.

        1. Gene Cash Silver badge

          Re: Hmm, awkward

          Well, I'm forced to pay taxes to support other people's kid's schooling. They should contribute to herd immunity so everyone is safer, including those with immunodeficiency.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Hmm, awkward

            Herd immunity happens whether or not anybody is vaccinated.

          2. sabroni Silver badge

            Re: I'm forced to pay taxes to support other people's kid's schooling.

            Is that really the reason?

            Wish I'd paid more tax now, they could've spent it on your education.

      2. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Hmm, awkward

        "Typhoid Mary lost her liberty for egregiously refusing to believe that she was highly infectious, evidence be damned."

        She did indeed do that, but she wasn't exactly given a workable alternative. The requirements originally set forth for how she could regain her liberty were going through an experimental surgery which had killed people and not working as a cook again. As that was her primary experience and the only one which would pay enough to keep her temporarily out of poverty. Meanwhile, other carriers who protested less were not isolated and infected others as she would have done. This doesn't necessarily make her isolation bad, but one has to admit that such a harsh protocol applying only to one person is at best unproductive in producing a health benefit.

        On the topic of Pakistan, it is definitely coertion, and I'm curious what your definition of "forcing" is. Again, not necessarily a bad thing. I know that, whenever I'm in conversation with someone who refuses to get the vaccination, I have a strong urge to force them to get it after about five minutes and it's probably a good thing I don't have one with me because I would inject them there and then, probably doing it wrong and wasting the shot. However, doing something like this in a forceful way could bring with it several problems, including a probable increase in vaccine hesitancy next time. Since the article points out several other vaccines they haven't taken, next time is basically right now. Therefore, I would, despite my preferences for immediate vaccination, recommend that a more diplomatic approach be taken for now. Should that fail, perhaps a better approach for a forceful method would use an easier method of identifying people rather than hoping that all communications companies had perfect documentation.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Hmm, awkward

          "probably a good thing I don't have one with me because I would inject them there and then" and you would have ended up with a broken neck !

          1. doublelayer Silver badge

            Re: Hmm, awkward

            Alright, hyperbole in an attempt at mixing my comment with humor wasn't a good idea. I'll state my point more briefly and without embellishment:

            I have some sympathy for those who want a forceful approach to vaccinations, but I think it is unethical and unproductive. I view actions of the severity concerned as forceful and thus advise a more diplomatic approach.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hmm, awkward

        Dribble, you can still give and get covid vaccination or not so makes no difference whatsoever ! How is it endangering others,, explain ?

        1. gnasher729 Silver badge

          Re: Hmm, awkward

          Right for you to be anonymous.

          Without vaccine: 4.5 million infected, 150,000 dead. With vaccine (two jabs): 5,800 infected, a handful dead. No difference whatsoever.

    2. DS999 Silver badge

      Re: Hmm, awkward

      Having a cell phone isn't a "right". If you want to remain a risk to infect others (including those who can't get the vaccine due to autoimmune diseases etc.) then that's the the tradeoff you'd have to make.

      No one used to complain about mandatory vaccinations for school children, now all the antivax nutjobs are not only loudly campaigning against that, but even got republican governors to pass laws banning business from requiring vaccines of their customers. Guess they only believe in less regulation when it is the other side's regulation!

      Florida may lose billions in revenue from cruise ships that are considering avoiding the state entirely if an exception isn't made for them (they have no choice as the countries they are cruising to are requiring proof of vaccination) If the cruise industry leaves Florida, they will probably never return.

    3. onemark03 Bronze badge

      Re: Hmm, awkward

      No, not when public health and the common weal are at stake.

      Remember that we are dealing with widespread ignorance and religious fundamentalism here, spurred on by a fanatical clergy afraid for its own power and influence.

    4. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hmm, awkward

        @Blackjack: Whilst I agree with you in theory, your position only works for a 100% safe vaccine - which is not the case here. For the person who is one of the 1:1,000,000 edge cases where it will kill them it obviously doesn't hold. They surely have a right for the state not to arbitrarily kill them. That is where the statute on Human Rights overtakes your "safety of the country". Whilst it is not ideal, it does need to be this way. Unfortunately it opens the door to the "I just don't want to" sector.

        1. gnasher729 Silver badge

          Re: Hmm, awkward

          Car seat belts are mandatory. And sometimes they kill people. We know that. They just save 10 times more, that’s why they are mandatory.

    5. Piro Silver badge

      Re: Hmm, awkward

      It's disturbing that you've gotten so many downvotes. You haven't said anything controversial or incorrect.

      If people want to take the injections, that's OK, but are we seriously saying that all the ethical arguments against forced medical experimentation are to be thrown away now?

      No matter how it's being sold, you are part of a Phase III trial, where the manufacturer is immune (hah) from prosecution. These injections are NOT approved for general use, a basic fact that seems to be evaded people.

  2. DrXym Silver badge

    Makes no sense

    It would be easier to just punish the person whose name is on the list as not receiving the vaccine rather than figuring out what SIM devices they own or by excluding SIMs everyone else owns. e.g. slap a punitive tax on them which they have a chance to avoid by getting vaccinated.

    1. Jamesit

      Re: Makes no sense

      The devices are registered with the government, it's stated in the article.

    2. gnasher729 Silver badge

      Re: Makes no sense

      You can easily get a list of say everyone registered to the NHS who hasn't been officially vaccinated. And you could easily give that list to BT, O2, EE etc who are all supposed to know who has bought SIM cards. And it would be easy enough to black all those SIMs.

      If you instead hand over a list of everyone vaccinated, you kill all the SIM cards that were bought under false names as well.

      1. Twanky

        Re: Makes no sense

        BT, O2, EE etc who are all supposed to know who has bought SIM cards

        That does not seem to be correct. You can buy a sim card for cash in Tesco. You can buy a top up for it for cash in Tesco. You can buy a phone to put it in for cash in Argos. I've done it. Are BT, O2, EE (same as BT) really supposed to know who I am?

  3. Nifty Silver badge

    Sorry guv, I didn't get the text to confirm my jab appointment.

  4. Joe W Silver badge

    F... an

    vaccination rates for polio declined by 28 per cent

    Isn't this one of the few places where poliomyelitis is still endemic?

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: F... an

      I believe so, which would suggest that earlier attempts to get people to accept vaccination did not use effective strategies. As the article relates, at least some of those attempts did not treat the local population with respect and left people feeling pretty pissed off about it.

      So we created a reservoir for polio to reside in and perhaps mutate one day, and we might now be creating a similar reservoir for covid. Great work, guys!

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A better incentive

    for those who, for fantasy reasons or delusional beliefs, refuse to protect everyone else by being vaccinated (for anything, not just COVID-19) would be

    compulsory isolation and infection with the disease that they refuse to vaccinate themselves or their children against.

    For those who are still amenable to having their minds changed, they will get vaccinated.

    For those who still refuse, you accelerate the Darwinian process and improve the gene pool.

    (Yes, I'm not *completely* serious, but if it wasn't for vaccination, smallpox and polio would still be endemic. Stupidity is not a valid excuse to refuse to vaccinate, when refusal adventures other people's lives. Nobody has the right to refuse vaccination "because a bloke down the pub told me that the vaccine is a cover for a secret government project to brainwash everyone". They already have television to do that and it works very well.)

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: A better incentive

      When you have this many skeptics, there is considerable social pressure involved, so I don't think you can just rely on people being amenable to having their minds changed and getting vaccinated. (Their kids don't even get asked, for one thing, so a "Darwinian fallback position" is not really acceptable.)

      You have to go in an actively persuade people that their doubts are mis-placed. You have to win the argument. (And as I've argued above, I don't think that coercion is a winning argument.)

      1. Gene Cash Silver badge

        Re: A better incentive

        > have to go in an actively persuade people that their doubts are mis-placed. You have to win the argument

        I'm not interested in arguing with them. I want them to get their damn medical treatment. I've lived with my mother and heard enough stupid arguments to last the rest of my life. That's enough for me.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A better incentive

      So what you're saying is that every vaccine that gets released from this point forward is mandatory? And the end game if people refuse is a death sentence?

      Big pharma must be rubbing their hands with glee! I suggest you educate yourself on the very long history of medical malpractice and the political corruption that results from the lobbying efforts of this industry.

      Apply a little more critical thinking before posting such bilge in future.

      1. gnasher729 Silver badge

        Re: A better incentive

        "Big pharma must be rubbing their hands with glee! " If 70% in Pakistan are vaccinated, and 30% are not, there is not _that_ much reason for glee.

      2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: A better incentive

        It's not just vaccines. Mental health issues have a cost to wider society, so where's the harm in gently "nudging" people towards taking mind-altering drugs?

        And whose society are we protecting here? There are 225 million people in Pakistan. Millions of them have "been told" that the vaccine causes infertility or even death within a couple of years. Now "the government" is telling them that the screws are turning and they'll have to have the vaccine eventually. The vaccines were all developed abroad. Last time this happened, it "turned out" that a foreign government wanted their DNA.

        If you were to call for a vote in the UK, you'd have a huge majority in favouring of taking the vaccine. Evidence out this week suggests that even the "vaccine hesitancy" of some has not actually materialised as "vaccine refusal". We didn't force the issue and people were persuaded by the experiences of friends and family. However, if you were to call for a vote in some parts of Pakistan, you'd just lose the vote. What's your authority for imposing sanctions on a regional majority population that numbers in the millions?

  6. Danny 2 Silver badge

    Momento mori

    I had my first jab on Monday, not reluctance just Royal Mail incompetence. My older siblings and cousins have all had both jabs and so have decided it's perfectly safe for them to visit my parents home without masks.

    30% of the delta variant deaths in England last week were fully vaccinated people ( )

    I'll not be fully vaccinated until mid October, but even then I'll be wearing a mask and social distancing all winter.

    Infection rates are still rising quickly in Scotland, and we still have to wear masks in shops. I put one on to enter a shop run by young Pakistani men only to find they weren't wearing them, so I went elsewhere. I've seen lots of people not wearing masks in the local Coop which plays a message saying not to challenge them because they may be medically exempt. This is nonsense. When I got my vaccine there were several thousand people queuing, and only one person wasn't masked because you had to bring medical proof to do that.

    1. Skiron

      Re: Momento mori

      I've had both mine (first time I'm glad I am over 60) BUT, this is the problem. People think they are now safe but in fact you can still get covid but not so feel so shit or need hospital attention.

      Still carry on like the last 16 months.

    2. katrinab Silver badge

      Re: Momento mori

      If you look at the age demographics of people getting infected in this wave compared to previous waves

      You will see that this time round it is affecting young people, mostly school-age children and their parents. Both groups who have either not yet been called-up for vaccination, or have only recently been called up for their first dose.

      The risk for 70 year-olds has always been lower than for pretty much every other age group except the under-5s, probably because they are retired but still relatively healthy. But this time round, people over that age are mostly not affected, when previously they were affected the worse.

      That appears to show that the vaccines are working.

    3. richardcox13

      Re: Momento mori

      > 30% of the delta variant deaths in England last week were fully vaccinated people ( )

      You've miss-read the article.

      There are:

      - People without any vaccination

      - People are partially vaccinated

      - People who are fully vaccinated

      If almost two thirds of people who... are in the first group, it does not follow the remainder are in the third. It was been widely stated that those in the second group have relatively little protection against delta, so likely most of the third remaining are in that group.

      And remember maximum protection occurs 2–3 weeks after the second does.

      1. Rosie Davies

        Re: Momento mori

        I thought that as well but if you go a bit further down the article you get to "And of 42 deaths in people with Delta variant infections, 23 were unvaccinated and seven had received only one dose. The other 12 had received two doses more than two weeks before."

        So 28.5%. A little less than 30% but not a lot.


    4. markr555

      Re: Momento mori

      Nice little dog whistle there, how did the fact that they were Pakistani warrant a mention? If they were white would you have said 2 English men? Sounds like you're blaming those pesky immigrants!

      1. Danny 2 Silver badge

        Re: Momento mori

        Not at all Mark, I also criticised the unmasked shoppers (mainly white Scots) in the local Co-op. The staff there wear masks but company policy is not to challenge customers who don't. If anything that is even more dangerous as the maskless there are chancers, and the Pakistani shop at least keeps it's door open so better ventilated.

        Customers should only be allowed in a shop without a mask if they provide a note from a doctor, and wear a face guard.

        Edinburgh cases have risen from 53/100,000 to 183/100,000 in a month because idiots.

    5. Twanky

      Re: Momento mori

      I'll not be fully vaccinated until mid October, but even then I'll be wearing a mask and social distancing all winter.

      From this I assume that in the Spring you expect (or hope) to stop social distancing and take your mask off. What do you expect (or hope) to have changed at that time? Is it just the odds of meeting someone infected?

      1. Danny 2 Silver badge

        Re: Momento mori

        I'm hoping that by early next year there will be a 'tweaked' vaccine aimed at the delta variant.

        Scottish data in The Lancet today shows the AZ vaccine is only 60% effective against delta, Pfizer is 79% effective. All the manufacturers have stated that they should be able to target variants comparatively quickly, hopefully they are already working on that.

        Aye, socialise and you may die. Run and you'll live - at least a while. And dying in your beds many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days from this day to that for one chance, just one chance to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our freedom day, but they'll never test and trace us!

        1. EnviableOne Silver badge

          Re: Momento mori

          the Pfizer modifications were made in less than a week and its variant effective vaccine is moving for approval, mRNA is easy to tweak and makes the process far quicker, they have a better design (that will work without the extreme refrigeration needs and for future variants, almost in production, whereas AZ haven't even finished making their Beta fix, let alone attempted their Delta fix

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Momento mori

      I haven't examined the data first hand but just make sure that you are looking at people that "died from Covid" and not people that "died with Covid". It makes a big difference.

      Given a more contagious variant you would expect more people to catch the virus compared to earlier relatively less contagious variants. More people catching it would equate to more people who "died with Covid" even with a constant death rate, given vaccination does not prevent infection. Thus a 95 year old who's had their jabs and dies whilst infected but mildly symptomatic appears on the stats whereas there's an argument that it likely wasn't the cause of death. It's one of the many issues the loose categorisations creates.

  7. davcefai

    I would consider that refusal to be vaccinated constitutes "reckless endangerment" to others and there are already mechanisms for coping with this.

    There is compulsory vaccination for children.

    So come down on these refusniks with the full force of the law and make the world safer for sensible people.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fake news?

    If it had been shown that the UK government were swabbing us for DNA while testing/vaccinating then I'd imagine hesitancy being quite reasonable.

  9. Filippo Silver badge

    "According to research from academics in Spain and the UK, this reluctance has been fuelled partially by an incident where the CIA used a hepatitis B vaccine drive in its search for Osama bin Laden. The operation sought to obtain DNA samples from infants in order to find a genetic match with the fugitive terrorist leader."

    I didn't know that. That's horrible. Undermining trust in medicine ought to be a war crime.

    1. Twanky

      I started by up-voting for suggesting the CIA's described action was horrible. It was.

      I ended up down-voting you for suggesting 'undermining trust in medicine ought to be a war crime'. What? We're not allowed to have different opinions on what is good medical practice any more? So me doubting whether the annual 'flu vaccination does any good is a war crime? Fuck off.

      1. Filippo Silver badge

        "Undermining trust in medicine". The science. As in "encouraging belief that doctors as a category are untrustworthy".

        I think it's a fairly big leap from that to "never discuss specific medical practices", but, eh, whatever.

  10. Hassan-Nawaz

    Not religios nor conservative, just uneducated & paranoid

    Hi from Pakistan! Slight correction: It is not religious nor conservatives that oppose the vaccine, religious authorities have endorsed the vaccine. Opposition / skpeticisim exists regardless of level of religiousity, and it is concentrated in the border areas of Afghanistan which are the least educated, the least developed tribal areas, NOT necessarily the most religious. Of course being the least developed and least exposed to different ideas means that people are narrow minded on the borderlands about everything, not just religion. The CIA using vaccinations there to assasinate people has got people worried, over reacting of course, but that's what happens when you combine drone strikes, CIA assasinatons under the cover of vaccination programs, the POTUS Trump giving credibility to anti vaxxers, and multiple 'highly qualified' (quack) doctors on youtube telling these already paranoid tribal people that the vaccines are a conspiracy, because they have expereinced real conspiracies already so it (falsly) confirms their experience. It's not right but it has to be understood to deal with the problem.

    Pakistan is not a country built on the ideas of individualism, liberty, and total freedom of choice and so I see no moral or ethical or political objections in that context to oppose the vaccine simply being heavily encouraged the way it has with SIM cards, or even travel restrictions, employment, etc etc. I'm all for it, it will save lives.

  11. markr555


    Are there really a majority of commentards supporting ostracisation of people who decide not to have the vaccine? It is a personal choice, and those who refuse it will eventually gain immunity or death after catching covid. Keep your condescending opinions to yourself and let them make that choice. I've had my vaccines, and if you've had yours then why the bloody hell do you think you have the right to force/coerce (or whatever word you want to use) others to bend to your will.

    1. Piro Silver badge

      Re: Seriously?

      It's a very disturbing development in society. We're regressing quickly in to tribalism.

    2. genghis_uk Silver badge

      Re: Seriously?


      It 's amazing how the commentary has changed over the last year so that El Reg is starting to look like the Daily Mail.

      It shows the power of the press (and it is mostly the press not social media that just amplifies), that the fear mongering has worked. Scared people are not rational and will climb over the broken bodies of children given the right motivation - keeping people scared and angry has done wonders for press and governments around the world.

      Threats of forced vaccination, threats against people who do not want to vaccinate for any reason, them and us style rhetoric... Is this really a bunch of educated IT professionals?

      If someone proposed that Windows and Facebook were to be made mandatory this forum would be lit up about removing choice but if someone does not want a biological injection they should be held down and forced to take it "for everyone's safety" - OK, a bit extreme but you get the point - I hope!

      A majority need to vaccination. From first dose numbers, assuming they all have a second, we should reach herd immunity reasonably soon - London is an outlier but most regions are in the high 70's% now, Wales is nearly 90% of first doses. Experts have not really given a number for herd immunity but I have seen between 70% and 82% so we are well on our way without having to forcefully inject anyone.

    3. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge

      Re: Seriously?

      "I've had my vaccines, and if you've had yours then why the bloody hell do you think you have the right to force/coerce (or whatever word you want to use) others to bend to your will."

      Because the anti-vaxxers will consume a disproportionate amount of medical resources and continue to put at risk people who for whatever reason can't get the vaccine. They also put at heightened risk medical staff, teachers, and other valuable members of society who are forced to interact with the general public. Finally, for most of the plague rats, their expressed rationale for not getting vaccinated is frankly nuts, and so I don't consider their incoherent transmissions from the planet Zorg to be a great reason to endanger others.

    4. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Seriously?

      "Are there really a majority of commentards supporting ostracisation of people who decide not to have the vaccine? It is a personal choice"

      It is a personal choice that puts others at risk. Society frequently makes judgements about what personal choices are considered personal enough that choice should be maintained and which other ones impact others enough that we need to impinge on choice. For example, it may be a personal choice to drive at racing speeds on residential roads, but it is a dangerous enough choice that it is illegal.

      I oppose the forceful method Pakistan is using, mostly because I think it is likely to be unproductive. I do not oppose restrictions on those who choose not to have the vaccination without a good reason. I would consider personally ostracizing them--after all, that's another personal choice and that one doesn't harm anyone but them. As I would not like to associate with someone who drives recklessly with disregard to the pedestrians they might kill, I wouldn't like to associate with someone who is willing to let others who can't get vaccinated get infected with a potentially lethal disease just so they don't have to have some muscle fatigue for a few hours.

  12. Tempest
    Thumb Up

    Given the Overall / Discriminatory Acts of Pakistani Governments . . .

    it is heartening to see a positive and innovative act that appears to be a world first.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Seems a bit drastic, couldn’t they try the free beer thing first?

  14. Apple2

    I might be a TOTAL idiot please tell me i’m reading this wrong.

    It is from the website, and was published by SPI-M-O on the 31st of March. It states on page 10 paragraph 32 of the expected roadmap out of lockdown, that they expect there to be a 3rd wave of infections in August. It also states that they expect 60-70% of the expected hospital admissions and DEATHS to come from those who have had both vaccinations.

    1. genghis_uk Silver badge

      If you read on to paragraph 56 on page 18, it explains...

      The reason is that the models show practically everyone is vaccinated (95% in this case) so the fatalities are mostly among vaccinated people as there are not many unvaccinated in the population.

      The vaccine is not 100% effective so you will still get some deaths - the Warwick model is showing a peak of 300 deaths per day in a third wave, largely made up of vaccinated population.

      What it is not showing is the proportion of the vaccinated vs. unvaccinated population. IT looks like 250 of the 300 are vaccinated but 50 are unvaccinated. Given the 95% : 5% split it shows that a lot more unvaccinated people will die even given some form of herd immunity in the general population (just over 3x given that is is 16.66% of the total)

    2. gnasher729 Silver badge

      Let’s say the government achieves 100% vaccination. The result will be that 100% of infections and 100% of deaths are vaccinated people.

      60% deaths in fully vaccinated people is not unlikely. Consider that those most at risk have the highest vaccination rate, and vaccination doesn’t work 100% if the time. So the unvaccinated will have more cases, but since they are mostly lower risk the high infection rate doesn’t translate into a high death rate.

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