ISLAMABAD: While the federal government on Thursday decided to establish Covid-19 vaccine administration cells across the country, pharmaceutical companies suggested that licences should be issued for local manufacturing of the vaccine as it may take years to import jabs for the entire population of Pakistan.
Meanwhile, 2,475 new Covid-19 cases and eight deaths were reported in a single day as the total number of active cases reached 34,537 in the country.
According to a statement issued by the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), a special session on vaccine availability and efficient administration was held on Thursday to mull over national vaccine strategy.
The meeting was attended by Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Health Dr Faisal Sultan, federal Minister for Economic Affairs Division Khusro Bakhtiyar, SAPM on Poverty Alleviation Dr Sania Nishtar, Chairman of National Disaster Management Authority Lt Gen Akhtar Nawaz Satti, Surgeon General of Pakistan Army Lt Gen Nigar Johar and Director General Military Operations (DGMO) Maj Gen Nauman Zakria. Adviser to the PM on Commerce and Investment Abdul Razak Dawood joined the session via video link.
National Coordinator of NCOC Gen Hamooduz Zaman Khan updated the forum on the national vaccine strategy.
NCOC Director General Maj Gen Asif Goraya said efforts would be made to facilitate the provinces for smooth vaccine administration.
The meeting was told that as per the strategy front line healthcare workers (FLHW) would be vaccinated in the first stage of inoculation process of Covid-19 followed by people above 65 years of age due to their higher vulnerability to the virus.
During the second stage of the immunisation process, all healthcare workers and people between 60 and 64 years of age would be administered the vaccine.
The forum was told that it was expected that at the end of first quarter of next year all FLHCWs would be vaccinated.
It was told that vaccine administration cells would be set up at all district and tehsil headquarters hospitals and regional health centers to ensure grass roots level approach of the vaccination process.
On the other hand, Executive Director of Pharma Bureau Ayesha Tammy Haq told Dawn that so far only four pharmaceutical companies had announced that their vaccines were effective.
“Pakistan is not a country having a population of 10 million people. So we need to go for the licences to start manufacturing of vaccine because otherwise it may take years to get the vaccine due to its unavailability and high demand. Pakistan is quite capable and skilled to manufacture vaccine within the country. We will just have to get the licence from a multinational pharmaceutical company to start manufacturing under its formula,” she said.
Ms Haq said India was going to produce 300m doses of vaccine and claimed that Pakistan could also do the same.
“I don’t think that vaccine will be easily available in international market. Pakistan should have booked vaccine long ago like other countries. Now we may get Chinese vaccine only and it may take a few years to get vaccine from other countries so we should go for licencing to start manufacturing,” she suggested.
Chairman of Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association Tauqeer Ul Haq said Chinese and Russian vaccines might become available by March.
“The private sector should be allowed to import vaccine as it will reduce the burden on the government. The government would be providing free of cost vaccine but the private sector will sell it,” he said.
Mr Tauqeer said the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan should grant approval on fast track as top 15 companies of Pakistan were capable of importing, storing and distributing the vaccine.
154 doctors die of virus
Meanwhile, the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA), in a statement, said increasing burden of Covid-19 on the medical community during the second wave of the pandemic was proving to be more fatal for doctors. “Till now 154 doctors have lost their lives due to Covid-19 in Pakistan. During the second wave which started from November, 45 doctors have lost their lives (16 in Punjab, 14 in Sindh, 13 in Khyber Paktunkhwa and two in Azad Jammu and Kashmir).
PMA Secretary General Dr Qaisar Sajjad said the government seemed to be very careless about the welfare of the families of the deceased doctors. It has announced Shuhada Package for these families but has not implemented it.
Published in Dawn, January 1st, 2021