KARACHI/ ISLAMABAD: The government is likely to bear $6 to $7 per dose of millions of shots if it opts to pick the Oxford-AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine, which has been approved by the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap), though its sole authorised local distributor is at the moment unable to give a proper timeline for the supply, it emerged on Wednesday.
“Since the government has allowed it [the Oxford-AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine] and given us the nod to import the consignments, we have estimated that it would be available to the government for something between US$6 and US$7,” said Usman Ghani of the Sindh Medical Stores, one of the biggest importers of vaccines and other pharmaceutical products in Pakistan.
“The offer has formally and clearly been made to both governments [federal and provincial], but it is a difficult question to answer when it would be made available. Frankly speaking, we don’t have exact idea about this right now.”
The federal government had approved AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use in Pakistan. The Sindh Medical Stores representative said the registration had been done by Drap but his company could not get documentary approval from the authority (Drap) till date and even vaccine price could not be fixed. “However, we are not in a hurry as we could not get any guaranty from the supply line.
“As AstraZeneca vaccine is being prepared in India so India will get the vaccine first and then or meanwhile it will be given to Covax. Moreover, countries such as Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh have already paid in advance to get the vaccine,” he said.
Just this week Drap approved another coronavirus vaccine, manufactured by Chinese state-owned firm, Sinopharm, as the government reaffirmed its resolve to procure at least one million doses of coronavirus vaccines by March. It ultimately aims to inoculate 70pc population against the virus though the people at the helm of this trade are still unsure about this.
About the possible availability of the AstraZeneca’s vaccine in Pakistan, the Sindh Medical Stores official said he did not know when they would be able to get the vaccine for Pakistani people, as, he said, AstraZeneca was busy supplying consignments to the countries which had already placed their orders and made advance payments.
“We have very cordial relations with Serum Institute of India and we would try our best to procure it as early as possible,” he added.
He said in their offers to the governments in centre and the provinces, the company had stated that they would be able to provide the British company’s vaccine tentatively in US $6-7 per dose if it was purchased in bulk.
He told Dawn that the vaccine could be supplied to the masses at US $6 to $7 per dose provided that 50 million doses were procured. “For private sector and institutions, we have offered to provide it in Rs2,000 to Rs2,500 per dose if they order 10,000 or more doses,” Mr Ghani explained. “However, we have a history of transparent and proper deals as we know that we are in very sensitive and delicate type of business. So we have decided that we would only be providing the vaccines to reputed institutions like Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH), Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital and some others like that.”
Replying to a question, Mr Ghani said India might get the vaccine at cheaper rates as vaccine was being manufactured there and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had personally visited the plants and initially demanded free vaccine after which it was agreed that the vaccine would be provided at concessional rates.
“Other developing countries, whether they have paid in advance, will get the vaccine at same rates. However, there can be different prices for the people of rich, middle income and poor countries,” he said.
Data would be maintained and it would become possible to know how many people had been vaccinated after the vaccine import, he believed.
1,772 more infected, 48 die
Meanwhile, 1,772 more cases of novel coronavirus were reported in a single day that also recorded the death of as many as 48 patients.
Special Assistant to Prime Minister (SAPM) on Health Dr Faisal Sultan in a press briefing on Wednesday told the media that Pakistan was in consultation with China and British High Commission to get Covid-19 vaccine. He was confident that one million doses of vaccine would be procured by March 31. He disclosed that 17,000 volunteers were vaccinated with China’s CanSino vaccine, which was being tried across Pakistan as Phase III Clinical Trial and the results would be declared next month.
The PM’s aide said people up to 18 years of age could not be vaccinated, but the ultimate aim was to vaccinate 70pc of vaccine-able population, i.e. 70 million, to get herd immunity. He said two vaccines i.e. China’s Sinopharm and the Oxford-AstraZeneca were already registered by the Drug regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap). He said trial of another company CanSino was in last stage and results would be out next month.
“Sinopharm’s vaccine is being used in several countries including the UAE. Its efficacy is 80 per cent and in some places, 85pc efficacy has also been reported. Moreover, we will get vaccines through Covax [an international alliance that has pledged free vaccines for 20pc population]. We also met British ambassador and I believe we will be able to give you better news,” Dr Sultan said.
Replying to a question, the PM’s aide said any company could import the vaccine after fulfilling the requirements, as the registration process had been made easier.
PML-N policy related to Covid-19
Meanwhile, during an event titled “Working Session of the Policy Wing of PML-N” Senator Musadik Masood Malik shared party policies on vaccination, education and economy under Covid-19.
The event was organised by a think-tank Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (Pildat) at a local hotel.
Senator Malik later during a media talk said the party policy was prioritization of the target population starting from frontline health workers, paramedical staff, to aged and immunocompromised people followed by teachers, nomads and the rest of the population.
“The party believes in establishing a database to enable eligible people to register themselves and for the purpose of monitoring. Vaccination centres should also be established and existing trained vaccination staff should also be used, according to the party policy. A suitable vaccine should also be selected based on various factors including logistics, cost, lead time for orders, etc. and based on cold chain and capacity logistics as per PML-N policy. Marginalised segments of society are to be given the vaccine free of cost. The party also believes that vaccinators should be trained on handling, storage and administration of vaccine,” he said.
“Furthermore, party policy places focus on awareness raising via different means to curb anti-vaccine propaganda and utilise the Polio infrastructure for advocacy and social mobilisation. The party policy dictates placing before Parliament an elaborate vaccination plan,” he said.
On management of the coronavirus impact on economy, PML-N updated policy emphasises on free of cost distribution of masks in low-income areas. The policy supports the complete adherence to Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and penalising those who violate the SOPs. Also, the party included in its policy provision of assistance to the citizens who lost their jobs during the pandemic through the expansion of Ehsaas/Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP).
Published in Dawn, January 21st, 2021