ISLAMABAD: As over 17,000 out of 18,000 volunteers have been vaccinated, Pakistan is expecting to complete the clinical trial of a Covid-19 vaccine in the current week.
While critics said the country should have pre-booked the vaccine, some experts are of the opinion that by the end of the first quarter of the year, tens of options will be available for the procurement of vaccine.
In August last year, the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap) gave a nod to hold the clinical trial of Covid-19 vaccine prepared by the Chinese CanSino company in the country. The trial started in September. In December, it was decided to increase the sample size from 10,000 to 18,000.
University of Health Sciences (UHS) Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Javed Akram, who is also member of the Scientific Task Force on Covid-19, said the trial will be completed by the end of the week.
Drap approved trial of Chinese vaccine
“As the vaccine is double blind which means half of the doses are not active, it will be announced that how many volunteers have contracted virus and what is the efficacy rate. Moreover, follow-up of volunteers will be continued for a year and they will be tested for free in case of symptoms of Covid-19,” he said.
Replying to a question, Dr Akram said the process to register the vaccine had already been initiated and that the price of the vaccine will be from three to four dollars. It will be a single dose so people will have to get it only once.
Delay in pre-booking of vaccine
As Pakistan is being criticised especially on social media for delaying booking of the vaccine, the Ministry of National Health Services believes that the criticism is unjustified.
A senior official of the health ministry, requesting not to be quoted, said Pakistan should not be compared with around 10 countries, including Canada and United States, which have pre-booked the vaccine.
“Though it is being said they have pre-booked the vaccine, the fact is these countries have invested in the research and that investment can sink. There are around 180 other countries which have not opted for pre-booking.”
On Dec 30, Pakistan booked 1.1 million doses from China’s state-owned company, Sinopharm.
“The vaccine will be registered by Drap in upcoming week and then it will take up to 10 days to get the vaccine and disperse it to the citizens. We have arranged the vaccine for frontline workers and hope that CanSino, which has been conducting clinical trial in Pakistan, will also start its manufacturing soon and we will get the vaccine in the next quarter of the current year. Training of medical staff has already been started to administer the vaccine,” he said.
The official said as COVAX, a global alliance, had already pledged to give 50 million free doses of vaccine to Pakistan so initial supply may also start in the second quarter of the year.
“No country in South Asia has pre-booked the vaccine. However, the position of India is bit different as 80 percent of globally required vaccine is prepared there, so it (India) put a condition that some of the vaccine will be given to India. However I believe that within four months there will be around a couple of dozen options due to which the vaccine will become easily available. South Korea has no issue of funding, as compared to Pakistan, but it has decided to wait for two months to get best or most efficient vaccine,” he said.
A microbiologist, Prof Dr Javed Usman, told Dawn that it was next to impossible for countries like Pakistan to provide vaccine to all the population at once.
“Even United Kingdom has made a priority list in which elderly people and frontline workers have been included. Similarly, in Pakistan it has been decided to vaccinate frontline workers and elderly people. In the next few months, the vaccine will be available in the market so people who can afford it will be able to buy it from the market. However, I assume that once the vaccine is available, a large number of people will prefer to wait and see rather than immediately going for vaccination,” he said.
2,482 cases and 50 deaths in a day
According to data released by the National Command and Operation Centre, 2,482 cases and 50 deaths due to Covid-19 were reported in a single day.
As many as 315 ventilators were in use and the number of total positive cases was 34,049.
Meanwhile, three Covid-19 patients died while 156 more cases of the virus were reported in the capital on Thursday.
Officials said all the three patients had been hospitalised, including two at Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims); they were the residents of I-8, G-7 and I-10.
The deceased - two female and one male - were from the age group of 60-69.
During the last 24 hours 5,167 tests were conducted in the capital out of which 89 male and 67 female persons tested positive. The positivity rate stands at 3pc. On Thursday, 19 cases were reported from Lohi Bher, followed by 11 from Rawat, 10 from I-8, eight from Bhara Kahu, seven from I-10, six each from G-13, E-11, G-8, F-11, Khanna, five each from G-6, G-10, four each from G-11, F-10, Sohan, G-14, G-5, H-13, three each from G-9, Tarali, G-7, Bari Imam, I-11, two each from F08, F-6, Chak Shahzad, Alipur, F-7, Rawal Town, D-12, Chirrah, G-14, and one each from Kurri, Kirpa, D-17. The address of one of patient is not known.
Total number of positive cases, reported in the capital reached 38,687 out of which 36,231 people recovered while the death toll reached 436; there are 2,020 active cases currently out of which 108 people are hospitalised.
A man passed away while 29 other people tested positive for the disease and 44 patients have been discharged from hospitals.
Nisar Ahmed, 75, was brought to Pims on Jan 6 where he died on Thursday. There are 471 active patients in the district and around 95 are in hospitals. A total of 376 patients are isolated in their homes while 462 are waiting for their test results.
Around 23 of the new patients belong to Rawalpindi district including three each from Rawalpindi Cantonment and Gujar Khan, 11 from Potohar Town, four from city areas and two from Taxila whereas six patients arrived from outside the district including three from Islamabad, one each from one each from Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Chakwal and Hazro.A total of 15,809 have people tested positive for Covid-19 since March 2020 including 13,093 in Rawalpindi, 1,105 in Attock, 1,087 in Jhelum and 524 in Chakwal. As many as 14,389 patients have been discharged from hospitals after recovery in the four districts including 12,087 in Rawalpindi, 930 in Attock, 945 in Jhelum and 427 in Chakwal.
He said 673 people died in Rawalpindi Division during the last 10 months including 560 in Rawalpindi, 26 in Attock, 23 in Jhelum and 64 in Chakwal.
— Additional reporting by Aamir Yasin
Published in Dawn, January 8th, 2021