Pakistan secures 17 million doses of AstraZeneca

Published January 31, 2021
Karachi: Paramedics attend a training session for the upcoming Covid-19 vaccination drive on Saturday. — AFP
Karachi: Paramedics attend a training session for the upcoming Covid-19 vaccination drive on Saturday. — AFP

• Special plane set to leave for China to bring Covid-19 jabs
• NCOC records over 2,000 cases, 65 deaths
• Minister says vaccine sufficient for 250,000 healthcare workers

ISLAMABAD: With a special plane expected to depart for China in the next 48 hours to bring the first tranche of Sinopharm’s Covid-19 vaccine, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan announced that around seven million doses of AstraZeneca would also reach Pakistan in the first quarter of the current year.

In his tweet, the prime minister’s aide said: “Happy to share that in addition to the 500,000 doses of Sinopharm, almost 7 million doses of AstraZeneca to be made available in Q1 and given to the public free of cost! Pakistan’s vaccine drive starts next week, beginning with frontline healthcare workers.”

The development was also shared by Minister for Plan­ning, Development and Spec­ial Initiatives Asad Umar in his tweet, in which he stated that the government had rec­eived a letter from Covax, saying that 17m doses of Astra­Zeneca would be provided to Pakistan in the first half of 2021.

“We signed with Covax nearly 8 months back to ensure availability,” the minister tweeted.

Out of the 17m doses, seven million will be available by March.

Dr Faisal Sultan, in his sta­te­ment, said: “We are pleased to announce that the government of Pakistan, through Covax facility, has secured 17 million indicated doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, out of which 35-40pc (6-6.8 million) doses will be available within the first quarter and the rest in the second quarter of 2021.”

He said AstraZeneca had already been approved for use by the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap), adding that distribution of the vaccine was likely to begin in February.

“Covax’s timely support and delivery of the vaccine is testament of global stakeholders’ trust in Pakistan’s preparedness for vaccine roll-out. We remain confident that we will meet our plan of largescale immunisation over the coming months this year,” Dr Sultan added.

An official of the Ministry of National Health Services, meanwhile, said the efficacy rate of Chinese Sinopharm’s vaccine was around 80 per cent but Oxford-AstraZeneca’s efficacy was around 90pc.

“Though AstraZeneca is being prepared in India, it will come through Covax, an international alliance which has announced free vaccine for 20pc of Pakistan’s population. Drap has already registered both Sinopharm and AstraZeneca,” the special assistant said.

Talking to Dawn, Asad Umar said the special plane was all set to fly to China to bring 500,000 doses of the vaccine. He said the next tranche would arrive before the country utilised the doses from the first consignment.

According to the National Command and Operation Centre’s (NCOC) statement, the forum on Saturday deliberated at length on the vaccine administration strategy and necessary measures, particularly logistics.

“All necessary measures have been put in place for vaccine storage in Islamabad and its transfer to other federating units, particularly Sindh and Balochistan, by air,” the statement said, adding that the vaccine’s nerve centre had been established at the NCOC.

Mr Umar said the Chinese vaccine would be sufficient for 250,000 healthcare workers as two doses were required for every person.

“As 400,000 healthcare workers have registered themselves, it has therefore been decided that instead of considering the population of the federating units, the number of registered healthcare workers would be considered before dispatching the vaccine. In this way, the vaccine can be dispatched for 30pc, 40pc or 50pc of the registered healthcare workers,” he said.

The minister said as it would take two to three weeks to vaccinate healthcare workers and was hopeful that the new consignment would arrive before its utilisation.

He said the second consignment could arrive from China but as negotiations were underway with multiple sources, it could also be expected from another country.

Replying to a question, Mr Umar said it had been decided to transport the vaccine to Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa by road and to Balochistan and Sindh through air.

On the other hand, an official of the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) said vaccine availability had been made possible because of EPI’s efforts in ensuring development of a sound vaccine deployment plan.

“It was race against time and the collective hard work of federal and provincial EPI teams has made it possible,” the EPI official added.

Meanwhile, the NCOC data reported 2,183 new cases and 65 deaths from Covid-19 in a single day.

It further said 296 ventilators were in use throughout the country with the vent occupancy rate in Islamabad recorded at 38pc, followed by Multan, 37pc; Lahore, 35pc and Peshawar, 25pc. The data on beds providing oxygen showed that Peshawar was utilising 41pc of the beds, Karachi, 35pc; Multan, 34pc and Rawalpindi, 24pc.

The number of active cases in the country has been calculated at 33,439 with 2,566 patients admitted to hospitals.

Published in Dawn, January 31st, 2021

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