China to coordinate with companies to 'speed up' vaccine export to Pakistan

Published January 23, 2021
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying addresses a press briefing. — Photo courtesy Chinese Foreign Ministry website
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying addresses a press briefing. — Photo courtesy Chinese Foreign Ministry website

The Chinese government will provide a batch of Covid-19 vaccine to Pakistan "as aid" and will "actively coordinate with the relevant Chinese enterprise to speed up export of vaccines to Pakistan", Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said in a press briefing on Friday.

"Since the outbreak of Covid-19, China and Pakistan have been working together to overcome difficulties," she said in response to a question by the Associated Press of Pakistan.

"In order to support our brothers and sisters in Pakistan, the Chinese government has decided to provide a batch of vaccines as aid and will actively coordinate with the relevant Chinese enterprise to speed up export of vaccines to Pakistan. State Councilor Wang Yi shared this decision of the Chinese government with Pakistani Foreign Minister [Shah Mahmood] Qureshi yesterday during their phone call."

She did not, however, confirm the number of vaccine doses that China would provide, nor the name of the "relevant Chinese enterprise".

The confirmation came a day after Qureshi announced that China has promised to provide 500,000 doses of a coronavirus vaccine to Pakistan by January 31.

The minister said he held a detailed conversation with the Chinese foreign minister in which he "discussed Pakistan's requirements", after Prime Minister Imran Khan had directed him to increase interaction with Beijing "considering the sensitivity of the situation".

In a tweet, Qureshi suggested the doses to be provided to Pakistan will be of the Sinopharm vaccine, which the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap) had approved for emergency use in the country earlier this week.

On December 30, a special cabinet committee for procurement of Covid-19 vaccine, chaired by federal Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar, had decided to procure 1.1 million doses of vaccine from Sinopharm. It was also announced that the vaccine would be provided to 500,000 frontline healthcare workers as two doses would be given to each worker and the margin of spoilage was 10pc.

Sinopharm's vaccine is able to be stored at two to eight degrees Celsius, or a normal refrigeration temperature.

The jab has already been approved in the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, and is slated for use next in Morocco.

Final-stage trials of two vaccines developed by Chinese companies — China National Biotec Group (CNBG) and Sinovac Biotech Ltd — are also being held in Pakistan.

A member of the Scientific Task Force on Covid-19 constituted in March last year, Dr Ghazna Khalid, had told Dawn last week that the Phase-I trial of the Sinopharm vaccine that was being conducted in Karachi had reached the final stage.

The vaccine has been developed by the Beijing Institute of Biological Products, a subsidiary of state-owned conglomerate Sinopharm. The company announced last month that preliminary data from last-stage trials had shown it to be 79.3 per cent effective.

Last week, Drap also authorised the Oxford University-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use.

Earlier this week, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Health Dr Faisal Sultan had expressed confidence in the government's ability to procure at least one million doses of coronavirus vaccines by March, saying it ultimately aimed to inoculate 70 per cent of the country's population against the virus.

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