Pakistan to get first coronavirus vaccine doses ‘within weeks’: Dr Faisal Sultan

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Pakistan will receive its first batch of the coronavirus vaccine directly from manufacturers, as well as the global platform of COVAX, in the first quarter of the year, the senior-most health official in Pakistan said.

The government will be ordering doses from more than one international supplier within this quarter, Dr. Faisal Sultan, the Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health, told Geo.tv.

Pakistan will only procure vaccines that have been approved by the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) “after evaluation of its quality vis a vis efficacy data”, Dr. Sultan explained.

Last week, the DRAP approved for emergency use authorisation two COVID-19 vaccines – the Chinese manufactured Sinopharm, and the Oxford-AstraZeneca. In the near future, the doctor added, more vaccines will also be given a go-ahead by the regulatory body.

Earlier, a health official had told Geo.tv, on the condition of anonymity, that one other vaccine being examined by DRAP at the moment is the Ad5-nCoV, developed by a Chinese pharmaceutical firm, which underwent trials in Pakistan recently.

Besides procuring the drug directly, Pakistan will also receive its first tranche of vaccines from COVAX, a World Health Organisation-led initiative that aims to provide COVID-19 vaccines to poor countries, in the first quarter of the year.

Pakistan is already putting modalities in place to receive and distribute the vaccine.

“All necessary preparations are being done to start a mass inoculation campaign within Q1,” Dr Sultan said, “This includes infrastructure, framework, training and capacity.”

In the first phase, the vaccine will only be administered to healthcare workers dealing directly with coronavirus infected and those over the age of 65 years.

Local transmission

Pakistan’s death toll from the coronavirus crossed the 11,000-mark on Tuesday, bursting past a grim threshold since the country detected its first infections in late February last year. To date, over 500,000 cases have been recorded across the country.

At least 99% of the positive cases have been locally transmitted, Dr Sultan told Geo.tv. The percentage of local transmission till March 31, 2020, was 33%, which grew to 97% in September.

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