Vaccination drives against the novel coronavirus started simultaneously in all federating units of the country on Wednesday, a day after 500,000 doses of the vaccine arrived in Islamabad as a gift from China.
As per the government's vaccination strategy, health workers were the first to receive the vaccine.
Simultaneous inauguration ceremonies, held in major cities of all provinces as well as in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan, were attended by the respective chief executives and other high ranking officials.
Planning Minister Asad Umar, who is also the chair of the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), spoke to all the federating units through video link along with prime minister's aide Dr Faisal Sultan ahead of the inoculations.
NCOC officials including Lt Gen Hamooduz Zaman Khan were also present along with Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Poverty Alleviation Dr Sania Nishtar while China's Commercial Minister Xie Guoxiang was the chief guest.
The first jab of the vaccine was administered to a doctor in Islamabad yesterday after Prime Minister Imran Khan launched the vaccination campaign. Today, Umar and other officials oversaw more inoculations at the ceremony.
Addressing the ceremonies via video link today, Umar paid tribute to the frontline health workers for their "sacrifices and meritorious services" and termed them as the "real heroes" who put their lives on the line in the fight against the novel coronavirus.
The planning minister also thanked China for gifting 500,000 vaccine doses to Pakistan which enabled the government to inoculate the national immunisation drive.
He further said that the holding of simultaneous inaugural ceremonies reflected a national effort and collaboration between the provinces and the federal government in the fight against the contagion.
Dr Sultan, in his address, assured the nation of the vaccine's efficacy saying that the vaccine had "been tested on thousands [of people] and has proven to be safe and effective so we don't need to worry".
"Let me tell you something about the Sinopharm vaccine," he said. "It is a good vaccine, its efficacy is between 79-86 per cent."
He expressed hope that by the end of the year, the government would be able to vaccinate 70pc of the eligible population, which amounts to 100 million people.
He added that more than 500 vaccine centres had been established and according to the current capacity, 40,000 people can be vaccinated daily. The government was aiming to increase this number, he said.
The vaccination drive in Sindh kicked off with an inauguration ceremony in Karachi's Dow University Hospital Ojha, where an adult vaccination centre had been established.
The ceremony, which was attended by Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah and provincial Health Minister Dr Azra Pechuho, started with the administration of the vaccine on a health worker, Dr Tanveer Ahmed, while his colleagues and officials looked on.
The ceremony was also attended by officials of the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) and representatives of the Chinese consulate, according to Sindh CM House's Twitter account.
Speaking on the occasion, CM Shah said that Sindh had received 83,000 doses of the vaccine, all of which will be provided to frontline health workers. He told the attendees that there are 320,000 health workers in Sindh, out of which 180,000 were working on the frontline.
The chief minister said that in the first phase, the vaccination drive will be held in Karachi, Hyderabad and Shaheed Benazirabad as the number of Covid-19 cases in these cities are high.
He thanked China as well as the federal government for providing the doses and added that the Sindh government is in talks with Beijing and pharmaceutical companies so it can procure the vaccine as well.
He said that a "timetable" should be provided and lamented that it was not clear how many doses will be provided and at what time.
Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar was the chief guest at the inauguration ceremony of the vaccination drive which was held in Punjab House, Islamabad. The ceremony was also attended by provincial Governor Chaudhry Sarwar.
Speaking on the occasion, Buzdar said that the province was provided with 70,000 doses of the vaccine, which will be provided to health workers in the first phase. More doses will be provided in the next three weeks, he said. He added that 189 centres were established in the province to administer the vaccine and more than 600 people had been trained.
In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the vaccination drive started in Peshawar's Naseerullah Babar Hospital, where the provincial chief minister's focal person on Covid-19 MPA Dr Asiya Asad was in attendance. KP Chief Minister Mahmood Khan, who was in Islamabad at the time, delivered a message broadcast on state TV.
In his address, he said that the provincial government had received 16,000 doses of the vaccine from the Centre, which will be given to frontline health workers in KP. About 800,000 health workers in the province have to be vaccinated.
Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal inaugurated the drive in Quetta, where he thanked the federal government for providing the vaccine to the province in the initial phase. He noted that the pandemic was a "huge challenge".
The chief minister also remembered doctors and medical professionals who had passed away due to Covid-19 complications.
The provincial chief secretary had earlier said that the Balochistan government has received 5,000 doses of the vaccine and will receive another 5,000 later.
Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) Balochistan President Dr Aftab Kakar was the first to receive the vaccine in the province.
The vaccination drive in GB began at the governor house where health workers were administered the jabs. GB Governor Raja Jalal Hussain Maqpoon was also present on the occasion along with other government officials. NCOC officials also attended the event through video link.
According to the region's health department, the Centre had provided 3,000 vaccine doses to GB's government.