Pakistan in talks with China, Russia to get vaccines

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ISLAMABAD (Web Desk) – Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan on Monday said that Pakistani health authorities are negotiating with China and Russia, among others, to procure coronavirus vaccines.

“We are in talks with China, Russia and some other countries for procurement of the [COVID-19] vaccine after narrowing down our priority list,” Faisal Sultan, special assistant to the prime minister on health, told Turkish news agency Anadolu Agency.

The vaccine, he said, would be available in Pakistan sometime between January and March next year, and administered to health workers and senior citizens in the first phase.

“There is nothing final yet; however, I can tell you that we have to rely on more than one source,” the adviser said. “We will procure the vaccine only after its efficacy and safety is proven.”

While Russia has started the distribution of its Sputnik V COVID-19 shot nationwide, China is testing its vaccines in many countries, and supply deals are being signed.

Other vaccines seeking emergency use authorization are produced by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Oxford-AstraZeneca.

Islamabad has already earmarked an initial sum of $150 million to purchases the doses.

Last week, Nausheen Hamid, Pakistan’s parliamentary secretary for health, said all citizens would be administered COVID-19 vaccines free of charge, and the drive will begin in the second quarter of 2021.

Pakistan has witnessed a spike in COVID-19 cases and deaths in recent weeks.

The South Asian country recorded 3,795 new infections on Monday, the highest single-day tally since July 3.

The total caseload in the country of 220 million people has reached 420,294, including 8,398 related deaths. Pakistan has tested about 5.8 million people for the virus to date.

Some patients being treated for the novel virus are said to have died of oxygen shortage at a government hospital in the city of Peshawar on Dec. 5. The provincial health minister has ordered an inquiry into the incident.

On the other hand, Dr Faisal said the incumbent government could take strict measures to control rising number of COVID-19 cases in the country.

He said people were not following the standard operating procedures, given by the government for combating the second wave of coronavirus.

About complete lockdown policy, he said the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government was not in favor of complete shutter down due to economic conditions of daily wage workers and labor community. In Europe, he said, the situation was different as compared to Pakistan.

In reply to a question regarding the vaccination, the special assistant said priority would be given to frontline workers discharging duties in the hospitals. To another question about deaths at Khyber Teaching Hospital, he said investigations were underway in that tragic incident.

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