ISLAMABAD: China on Thursday announced a gift of 500,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccine for Pakistan.

“China would provide 500,000 doses of vaccine by Jan 31,” Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said after a telephone conversation with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.

He said the first consignment of vaccines was being given as a “grant assistance” and goodwill gesture by China.

The vaccine being provided by China is manufactured by the state-owned firm Sinopharm and is said to boast an efficacy of 79 per cent.

The vaccine has been approved for emergency use by China and four other countries, and for official registration by two countries. The Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan had earlier this week given approval for its emergency use in the country.

According to the company, some 10 million doses of the vaccine have already been administered in China.

The Chinese announcement about the vaccine gift came after India started shipping vaccine doses to the countries in the neighbourhood. Pakistan was not included in India’s list because it did not request Delhi for the vaccine.

Pakistan and China had been in talks for provision of the vaccines since December.

“Indeed Pakistan greatly appreciates the 500,000 doses of the vaccine gifted by China,” Mr Qureshi said.

Pakistan is the first country to get vaccines from China because of what the foreign minister described as the “strategic relationship” between the two countries.

The foreign minister said he had informed his counterpart that Pakistan’s requirement was much greater and at least 1.1 million additional doses were required in the first phase of the vaccination drive. Pakistan plans to vaccinate the frontline health workers during the phase.

“Mr Wang Yi has promised to fulfill the immediate requirement of 1.1m doses by end of February,” Mr Qureshi said.

The two foreign ministers also discussed another Chinese vaccine produced by CanSino, whose trials are nearing completion in Pakistan. Mr Qureshi conveyed Pakistan government’s desire to produce the CanSino vaccine in the country.

He said Mr Wang expressed his willingness for such a venture.

“China has played an instrumental role in Pakistan’s fight against Covid-19, with technical assistance and medical expertise,” the foreign minister recalled.

China has since the start of the pandemic provided Pakistan with ventilators and protective gear. Two medical teams from China also visited Pakistan for assisting Islamabad in developing its response to the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying, in her press briefing in Beijing, said: “The pandemic is a common challenge to all humankind. As President Xi Jinping pointed out on various occasions, solidarity and cooperation is the most powerful weapon to defeat Covid-19.”

“Victory in the global fight against Covid-19 cannot be achieved until the virus is eliminated in the last country. China will continue strengthening anti-epidemic cooperation with the international community,” she added.

Published in Dawn, January 22nd, 2021

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