ISLAMABAD: As 15 main cities of Pakistan reel from the rapid rise in Covid-19 positivity ratio, a major development at the international level with regards to a successful vaccine trial has raised hopes of prevention against the deadly virus.

International firms Pfizer and BioNTech announced on Monday that the phase-III clinical trial of their vaccine had shown 90 per cent efficacy in preventing the disease among those who have not contracted the virus.

With this outcome, the prospects of the two vaccines on which Pakistan is working have also increased as they target the spike proteins of the virus just like the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. It is therefore hoped that the commercialisation of the vaccine in the country could start in the coming months.

However, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan was of the view that it would not be easy for developing countries to maintain the cold chain and store the vaccine at -80 degree Celsius.

Talking to Dawn, Univer­sity of Health Sciences Vice Chancellor Dr Javed Akram, who is a member of the Scientific Task Force on Covid-19, said it was a positive development for Pakistan as well because the country had been working on two vaccines which also create antibodies against spike proteins of the virus.

“Once the antibodies are developed, spikes of the virus cannot attach with the lungs as a result of which it does not harm people. US firm Pfizer is a credible company and it shows that we can also start commercialisation of the vaccine in four to six weeks,” he said.

When contacted, Dr Faisal Sultan said Pfizer was among the front-runners trying to develop a vaccine against Covid-19.

“However it will be a major challenge for us to maintain the cold chain of the vaccine which is -80 degrees Celsius. Our cold chain system may not cater to the temperature so we will have to make arrangements to maintain the temperature during nationwide supplies,” the special assistant said.

Dr Ghazna Khalid, who is also a member of the task force on Covid-19, told Dawn that as the vaccine was being developed, a framework for cold storage was also being prepared.

“The vaccine becomes administrable in one-and-a-half hours but I believe people will be advised to come to the cold storage to get vaccinated. Unfortunately our Expanded Programme of Immunisation is entirely in Islamabad; it should be developed in provinces as well,” she said.

Meanwhile, the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) on Monday discussed at length the recent surge in coronavirus positivity ratio and the enforcement measures post-National Coordination Committee meeting.

“Chief secretaries of the provinces updated the meeting on administrative measures taken on the fresh guidelines in cities with higher positivity ratio in their respective provinces, particularly enforcement efforts regarding wearing of face mask and arrangements for outdoor wedding modalities. The forum noticed that positivity ratio in major cities had increased rapidly. Overall, the positivity ratio in the country stands at 4.5 per cent,” a statement issued by the NCOC said.

The meeting was also informed that 15 major cities had higher positivity ratio, with Hyderabad on top at 16.59 per cent.

Sindh government spokesperson Murtaza Wahab, however, denied that Hyderabad’s positivity ratio had crossed 15pc. In a video message shared on Twitter, Mr Wahab said: “In the last 48 hours, the number of #COVID19 cases have risen. However, reports suggesting that 15% is the positive ratio in #Hyderabad is incorrect. In the last 48 hours, the positivity ratio has remained at 8.7% approximately in District Hyderabad.”

According to the NCOC, Hyderabad was followed by Multan at 15.97pc, Gilgit 15.38pc, Muzaffarabad 14.12pc, Mirpur 11.11pc, Peshawar 9.69pc, Quetta 8.03pc, Islamabad 7.48pc, Karachi 7.12pc, Lahore 5.37pc and Rawalpindi at 4.63pc.

A photo posted by Instagram (@instagram) on

The forum was informed that 4,136 ‘micro small lockdowns’ were in place across the country. It was also informed that the recent health guidelines would remain in force in 15 major cities till Jan 31, 2021.

Meanwhile, meetings of the Senate committees scheduled for this week have been postponed due to Covid-19.

Published in Dawn, November 10th, 2020

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