No plan to allow private sector to import Covid vaccine: health ministry

Published December 14, 2020
A worker from the Arsalan Helpline Welfare Trust distributes face masks to passengers along a street in Karachi on Dec 15. — AFP
A worker from the Arsalan Helpline Welfare Trust distributes face masks to passengers along a street in Karachi on Dec 15. — AFP

The Ministry of National Health Services on Monday refuted media reports that it had allowed the private sector to purchase Covid-19 vaccines for those individuals that can afford to pay for them.

Earlier today, a report published in The Express Tribune quoted a statement issued by the health ministry as stating that the government had given permission to "cater to the segment of society that can afford" the vaccine.

However, Sajid Shah, the spokesperson for the ministry, denied issuing such a statement.

Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan CEO Asim Rauf also refuted the report. "Nothing of this sort has been done. Such permissions can't be given at this point because governments all over the world over are struggling to procure Covid-19 vaccines," he said.

Pakistan has increased its funds allocated for purchasing a Covid-19 vaccine to $250 million and signed non-disclosure agreements with various multinational companies. Under the agreement, the recipient country will not make details of the vaccine public.

Originally, the government had set aside $150m for the vaccine.

“We will sign a purchase agreement with more than one company to ensure that we get a vaccine (in case any of the available vaccine fails). Russia had also offered us its vaccine recently. However, we are looking into its safety and efficacy as public health is our top priority,” said Parliamentary Secretary on National Health Services (NHS) Dr Nausheen Hamid.

Hamid said it was hoped that the delivery of the vaccine would start by the end of the first quarter of next year.

“However, we are not going to give the vaccine to everyone. According to our priority list, in the first phase, healthcare workers attending to Covid-19 patients and people over 65 years will be vaccinated.

"In the second phase, the remaining healthcare workers and people over 60 years of age will get preference. Moreover GAVI has also pledged to provide vaccine for 20pc population which comes to 45 million people,” she said.

By the end of 2021, it would be available to the masses, she added.

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