ISLAMABAD: With six frontrunners in the race to develop a vaccine for Covid-19, Pakistan has begun efforts to build a system to provide a vaccine across the country.
“Though it is a fact that there is currently no vaccine available internationally, we need to develop a mechanism to ensure that a vaccine can reach every part of the country within a few days of becoming available on the market,” Health Services Academy Cice Chancellor and chair of the National Vaccine Committee, Dr Asad Hafeez, told Dawn.
“We will have to register the vaccine, and after that there will be a hectic exercise to ensure the vaccine is available across the country. There are around six front runners globally, and as a vaccine will be used across the country a plan is being prepared to distribute it at the provincial and district levels,” he said.
Dr Hafeez said: “So far, we are not aware whether the vaccine will be a single, double dose or will it need multiple doses. We have to make arrangements to maintain a cold chain as vaccines are stored at a certain temperature. [Our planning is flexible] and we will be ready to store the vaccine and begin using it as soon as it is registered globally.”
The Health Services Academy, Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) and Health and Population Think Tank held a national level consultative meeting on a vaccine for Covid-19 in Pakistan on Sept 14.
We will ensure that after becoming available the vaccine can reach every part of country, says official
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on NHS Dr Faisal Sultan affirmed his commitment to ensuring the timely availability of a vaccine for Covid-19 that complies with global standards for efficacy and safety once it is approved globally.
The meeting was attended by stakeholders, leadership from federal and provincial health departments, Ministry of Science and Technology, Ministry of Federal Education, National Command and Operations Centre, the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap), pharmaceutical sectors and experts on infectious diseases from the National Institute of Health and the Aga Khan University.
Dr Hafeez said a few more meetings will be held to finalise a plan and make arrangements.
According to a document available with Dawn, more than 250 Covid-19 vaccine candidates are being pursued globally. Vaccines - or any biological product - are allowed in Pakistan only when approved by Drap.
Once proven successful, the ultimate goal of vaccination is to make it available to everyone. When released, its supply is expected to be initially limited and the cost of vaccine production, procurement, quantity and long-term efficiency are expected to be an additional limiting factor to its availability to all. According to a statement, international experts on Covid-19 vaccine from Bill and Malinda Gates Foundation, Food and Drug Administration Authority provided technical input on latest Covid-19 developments and regulatory frameworks.
The discussion commenced by informing the participants about the political perspectives engulfing Covid-19 vaccine and its international standing.
The regulatory framework and practices were discussed to comply with global safety standards. A detailed discussion took place on how should the communication strategies be shaped and developed, knowing the perception challenges of Covid-19 vaccine in Pakistan and the development of fast-track transparent system for approval and registration of Covid-19 vaccine.
Director of Vaccine Development Dr Anita Zaidi discussed how Covid-19 vaccine development became a geopolitical issue.
Published in Dawn, September 18th, 2020