Country may get free vaccines in first quarter of year

Published January 24, 2021
Availability of free-of-cost Covid-19 vaccine seems to have been assured for Pakistan as Covax has announced that it will acquire 150 million doses in the first quarter. —Reuters/File
Availability of free-of-cost Covid-19 vaccine seems to have been assured for Pakistan as Covax has announced that it will acquire 150 million doses in the first quarter. —Reuters/File

ISLAMABAD: Availability of free-of-cost Covid-19 vaccine seems to have been assured for Pakistan as Covax has announced that it will acquire 150 million doses in the first quarter and two billion doses by the end of the year.

It further said that, out of the two billion doses, 1.3bn will be provided to 92 lower-income economies. As a result of this agreement, chances of Pakistan getting the free doses in the first quarter of the current year seem to have brightened.

Talking to Dawn, Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) spokesperson Sajid Shah said it was a positive development and expressed the hope that Pakistan would get the vaccine in the current quarter.

“Vaccination would start immediately as per our priority list prepared by the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC),” Mr Shah said.

Covax is an alliance that has been set up by the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (Gavi), Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and World Health Organisation (WHO) in April last year. It has pledged free vaccine for 20 per cent of Pakistan’s population.

On the other hand, the NCOC reported 1,927 coronavirus cases and 43 deaths in a single day.

Ministry official says vaccination to start as soon as doses become available

According to its data, out of the 43 casualties, 20 people lost their lives in Sindh, followed by 14 in Punjab, four in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, three in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and two in Islamabad.

As many as 301 Covid-19 patients were on ventilators across Pakistan, with 38pc occupancy rate in Multan and Islamabad, 34pc in Lahore and 32pc in Bahawalpur.

According to the data of beds with oxygen, Peshawar had the highest rate of occupancy at 44pc, followed by Karachi, 40pc; Mul­tan, 36pc; and Rawalpindi, 27pc.

The total number of active cases recorded in the country is 35,063 while 11,247 patients have so far succumbed to the virus.

As many as 2,789 patients are under treatment in 631 hospitals having Covid-19 facilities.

Covax announces agreement

According to a statement issued by WHO, Covax — a global initiative to ensure rapid and equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines for all countries regardless of income level — has announced the signing of an advance purchase agreement with Pfizer for up to 40m doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine candidate, which has already received WHO emergency use listing.

Rollout will commence with the successful negotiation and execution of supply agreements.

In further support of its mission to expedite early availability of vaccines to lower-income countries and help bring a rapid end to the acute stage of the Covid-19 pandemic, Covax also confirmed that it would exercise an option — via an existing agreement with Serum Institute of India — to receive its first 100m doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford University vaccine manufactured by SII.

“Of these first 100m doses, majority are earmarked for delivery in the first quarter of the year, pending WHO Emergency Use Listing. The WHO review process, which is currently underway, follows approval for restricted use in emergency situations by the drugs controller general of India earlier this month, and is a critical aspect to ensure that any vaccine procured through Covax is quality assured for international use.

“According to the latest WHO update, a decision on this vaccine candidate is anticipated by the middle of February,” the statement says.

Preparations, led by WHO, Unicef and Gavi, are well under way for Covax to deliver vaccines to economies eligible for support via Covax, with Gavi making $150 million available from its core funding as initial, catalytic support for preparedness and delivery.

“The urgent and equitable rollout of vaccines is not just a moral imperative, but also a health security and a strategic and economic imperative,” said WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“This agreement with Pfizer will help enable Covax to save lives, stabilise health systems and drive the global economic recovery,” he said.

The Covax facility intends to provide all 190 participating economies with an indicative allocation of doses by the end of this month. This indicative allocation will provide interim guidance to participants — offering a minimum planning scenario to enable preparations for the final allocation of the number of doses each participant will receive in the first round of vaccine distribution.

Published in Dawn, January 24th, 2021

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