Plane arrives from China today with 0.5m doses of vaccine

Published February 1, 2021
VACCINE being loaded on a PAF plane at the Beijing Airport on Sunday.
VACCINE being loaded on a PAF plane at the Beijing Airport on Sunday.

• Registration of citizens over 65 years of age to begin in two weeks
• Minister says vaccination likely to start in Islamabad
• Pakistan to get another 1.1m pre-booked doses

ISLAMABAD: A special Pakistan Air Force (PAF) plane was due to leave Beijing for Islamabad on Monday (today) with around half a million doses of Covid-19 vaccine gifted by China.

In another development, the government has decided to start registration of citizens over 65 years in the next two weeks.

The National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), on the other hand, reported that another 1,599 people had contracted the virus while 34 lost their lives in a single day. It further said 2,591 patients were under treatment.

According to real time pictures shared with media, the PAF plane had landed in Beijing at 7pm (4pm PST) and Sinopharm’s vaccine was being loaded on it.

China has donated 500,000 jabs, with which the frontline healthcare workers will be vaccinated. Over 400,000 health professionals have applied for the vaccination.

In a tweet, Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar said the vaccine was being loaded on to the PAF plane and the vaccination process would begin in the next few days.

Later talking to Dawn, Mr Umar said the registration process of citizens over 65 years would start in the next 10 to 15 days.

He said: “As the doses will be stored in Islamabad, there is a possibility that vaccination will start a day earlier in the federal capital compared to the rest of the country.”

Earlier, in a statement issued by the NCOC, it was informed that a special PAF plane had left for Beijing to bring the first tranche of the vaccine.

“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.

An official of the Ministry of National Health Services, requesting not to be named, said arrangements were in place to maintain the cold chain management of the vaccine, right from storing it in a warehouse to its administration to healthcare workers.

“There is a warehouse of the Expanded Programme of Immunisation (EPI) which will be used to store the vaccine. Besides, we have developed the National Immunisation Management System (NIMS) through which we will monitor from Islamabad the doses utilised in each province and district and how many more were required. We will ensure that the new stocks are available before the existing ones run out,” he said.

The official said unfortunately some politicians in the country and critics in India were trying to malign Pakistan for failing to get the vaccine.

“Not only have we secured 500,000 free doses from our all-weather friend China but another 1.1m jabs, which had been pre-booked from Beijing, will also arrive,” the official said, adding that Covax had also given us a written assurance that it would provide 17m doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in the first six months of the ongoing year.

“Out of these 17m, around 7m will be received before the end of March. We are confident that the healthcare workers, citizens over 65 years of age, people in the age bracket of 50 and 65 years and those with chronic diseases will be vaccinated by the end of June,” he added.

Covax that was set up by Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI), Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and World Health Organisation (WHO) in April last year has secured contracts of two billion doses and has pledged to provide vaccine for 20pc of the country’s population. On Saturday (Jan 30), the WHO had officially stated that Pakistan would get 17m doses in the first half of 2021.

According to documents, available with Dawn, Pakistan’s vaccine strategy has been finalised and, after announcement of registration of different segments included in the priority list, citizens will have to send their computerised national identity card (CNIC) number to 1166 through SMS or through NIMS website for registration. After verification, a designated vaccine centre on the basis of the present address mentioned in the CNIC as well as a pin code will be sent to citizens through SMS.

People will have the option to change their vaccine centre by visiting NIMS website or by calling on the helpline 1166 within five days of the receipt of the first SMS. A vaccination centre and appointment date will then be shared.

On the date of the appointment, people will have to reach the centre with their original CNIC and also share their pin code. After administration of the vaccine, the recipient will remain in the centre for 30 minutes for post inculcation monitoring.

Meanwhile, the NCOC announced 1,599 new cases and 34 deaths in a single day.

It further said 289 ventilators were in use in the country, with the highest occupancy rate in Multan at 41pc, Islamabad, 37pc; Lahore, 35pc and Peshawar, 28pc.

Data on beds having oxygen showed that in Peshawar 45pc were in use, Karachi, 36pc; Multan, 35pc and Bahawalpur, 27pc.

The total number of active cases was 33,182 as of Jan 31.

Published in Dawn, February 1st, 2021

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