ISLAMABAD: As the death toll from Covid-19 surpassed the 10,000 mark on Wednesday and a number of countries have pre-booked vaccines based on preliminary or incomplete results to ensure availability, a special cabinet committee decided to pre-book 1.1 million doses of vaccine from a Chinese state-owned company ‘Sinopharm’.

The decision, which was made on the day when Sinopharm announced that its Covid-19 vaccine was 79.34 per cent effective, is contingent upon emergency use approval by the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap).

Once approved and procured, the government will provide free-of-cost Covid-19 vaccine for all frontline health workers in the first quarter of 2021.

Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar, while talking to Dawn, said that the price would be negotiated but it was decided that 1.1 million doses would be procured well before the end of first quarter of 2021 and administered to frontline workers.

Govt decides to pre-book 1.1m doses of vaccine from a Chinese company

“As two doses will be given to each individual, vaccine will be administered to 500,000 persons with a margin of 10 per cent spoilage of vaccine. In second phase, vaccine will be procured for the citizens over 65 years of age,” he said.

While replying to a question, Mr Umar said he believed that by the start of the second phase vaccine from a number of other companies would also be available.

According to a statement issued by the Ministry of National Health Services (NHS), the special cabinet committee, which was constituted as an oversight body for the procurement of Covid-19 vaccine, held its second meeting with minister for planning in the chair.

Besides Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry and Minister for Industries Hammad Azhar, who are members of the committee, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Poverty Alleviation Dr Sania Nishtar and SAPM on Health Dr Faisal Sultan also attended the meeting.

The meeting reviewed the overall situation of Covid-19 vaccines. “The committee was apprised that a number of countries have pre-booked Covid-19 vaccine based on preliminary or incomplete results in order to ensure the timely availability of vaccines for their populations. In some situations, vaccines were pre-booked even in development stages to ensure availability.

“The committee was informed of the deliberations of an expert committee formed by Drap who are in process of reviewing and analysing available data from clinical studies performed so far. Of the available options, data from one company was submitted for review to the committee for a final adjudication for emergency use,” it stated.

“In line with global practices at present whereby emergency procurement has to be made at times with incomplete and evolving information, the committee decided to pre-book Covid-19 vaccine from a Chinese state-owned company, Sinopharm based on data submitted and timely availability. This decision is contingent upon emergency use approval by Drap. Once approved and procured, the government will provide free of cost Covid-19 vaccine for all frontline health workers in the first quarter of 2021,” it explained.

It was also decided in the meeting that other manufacturers of Covid-19 vaccine would continue to be engaged for future bookings for the remaining phases of vaccination, based on further data and availability.

The committee reiterated that the private sector would also be encouraged to approach Drap and follow the laid down procedures for emergency use authorisation of any available and safe Covid-19 vaccine, the NHS ministry statement concluded.

According to the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), the government is in close liaison with leading Covid-19 vaccine manufacturers for its early availability in Pakistan.

“NCOC in collaboration with Ministry of NHS, National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra), and National Information Technology Board (NITB) has developed National Immunisation Management System (NIMS) to ensure efficient supply chain management and administration of Covid-19 vaccine. The system will enable automated phase wise registration of citizens for vaccine through SMS/ internet, based on CNIC numbers. Immunization mechanism will be intimated to citizens shortly. NIMS will be made available by mid of January,” it stated.

Death toll reaches five digits

The NCOC data released on Wednesday showed that with 2,155 new cases and 55 more deaths in a single day, the death toll surged to 10,047. As many as 299 ventilators were in use across Pakistan. The data shows that 44pc ventilators in Multan were in use; followed by 41pc occupied in Islamabad, 32pc in Lahore and 30pc in Peshawar.

While national positivity ratio was 5.92, the highest positivity ratio was recorded in Karachi i.e. 13.84pc, followed by 8.79pc in Hyderabad and 7.89pc in Swat.

In all, 2,219 patients of coronavirus across Pakistan were in critical condition.

Published in Dawn, December 31st, 2020

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