Around one million doses to be available in Pakistan by end of March: Dr Faisal

ISLAMABAD: Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination Dr. Faisal Sultan on Wednesday said that around one million doses of the COVID-19 vaccines will be available in the country by the end of the first quarter.

Addressing a media briefing, Dr Faisal said that the government will be able to start free COVID-19 vaccination during first quarter as the government is in the advanced stage of discussions for the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines from Chinese companies Sinopharm and Cansino to start vaccinate 70% of those over 18 years citizens with low immunity.

Dr Faisal Sultan said the discussions are on the way and the government was in touch with other companies whose vaccines had been approved internationally.

He added the country had the capacity to procure 20 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine.

He said that the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) had granted emergency use authorization (EUA) to two different vaccines for protection against COVID-19 in the country after evaluation included AstraZeneca and SinoPharm.

He said that besides these two approved vaccines, a team of experts had also mentioned eight to nine other vaccines for possible use in Pakistan. He however said that these two approved vaccines were shortlisted and granted EUA with certain conditions as earlier both vaccines were evaluated for their safety and quality.

He said that the Cansino vaccine is in the third stage of clinical trials in Pakistan. The trial is being carried out in five centres out of which three have completed it and begun analysing results. Results will be available by early February, he added.

He said that Sinopharm had proved to be around 80% effective in clinical trials being carried out in different countries.

He said that all available resources were being utilized to ensure provision of safe vaccine for country’s people as arranging vaccine for 225 million population country is not an easy task, he added.

He said that at first stage only frontline health workers will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccine while citizens of above 60 years will also be given priority. He added so far 400, 000 health workers have been registered for vaccination and software has been developed besides resource management system to streamline registration process.

He said that the government had started training of all concerned staff for vaccination process including health care staff, logistic and digital staff besides others.

He said that the government is in contact with China for purchase of vaccine while fruitful meeting was also held with British High Commissioner.

He said that Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) was given task for storage and vaccination as it had already trained staff and cold chain for the purpose and it will handle the storage of vaccine doses too.

He said that the EPI had reviewed its cold chain facilities and can expand them further as well.

He said that there is no restriction on private sector to procure vaccine but they have to get their vaccines registered with the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP), he added.

He said that the World Health Organization’s COVAX facility will also be providing vaccine doses to the country and around 20% of the population will receive vaccines through this facility.