Private sector to be exempt from price caps on import of Covid-19 vaccines

Published February 11, 2021
A paramedic prepares a dose of Sinopharm's coronavirus vaccine before administering it to a health worker at a vaccination centre in Karachi on Thursday. — Reuters
A paramedic prepares a dose of Sinopharm's coronavirus vaccine before administering it to a health worker at a vaccination centre in Karachi on Thursday. — Reuters

Pakistan will allow private companies to import coronavirus vaccines and has agreed to exempt such imports from price caps, according to documents reviewed by Reuters, even as the nation scrambles to secure supplies.

The documents show the National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination division had sought a special cabinet exemption to allow for such imports while excluding the imported vaccines from the strict price cap regime that is typically applied to all drug sales within the country.

The documents show the federal cabinet has approved the proposal. Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan also confirmed the cabinet decision to Reuters.

The decision is significant as Pakistan has yet to secure substantive volumes of vaccines from any companies and it only this month launched a vaccination drive with 500,000 doses of Sinopharm’s vaccine donated by long-time ally China.

Those shots are first being given out to frontline health workers on a priority basis.

Sultan said that Pakistan still planned to inoculate its population for free and only a “small minority” who wish to pay for the shots will have that option in the open market.

“Only those who wish to get it via private sector will pay anything,” he said. “Personally, my assessment is that when the vaccines are available and we have market competition, that will automatically set the prices.”

Pakistan, which has recorded more than 559,000 cases of Covid-19 and more than 12,100 deaths, is still largely reliant on the Gavi/World Health Organisation Covax vaccine initiative that is aiming to provide shots to poorer nations.

Pakistan has yet to receive any of the 17 million doses it is expected to get through the Covax initiative.

However, this is not the first time the government has said the private sector will be allowed to procure Covid-19 vaccines. Last month, Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar said that the federal government would not hold a monopoly on the import of coronavirus vaccines, adding that provinces and the private sector were free to import vaccines subject to approval of the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap).

So far, the Drap has approved three vaccines for use in Pakistan — China's Sinopharm, Russia's Sputnik V and the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine.

"From day 1, the NCOC has adopted the policy that the federal government shall not have the monopoly to import anti-coronavirus vaccines," he said. "Provinces and private entities including hospitals have been allowed to import the vaccines that are approved by Drap."

Opinion

Editorial

Miles to go
Updated 14 Jul, 2024

Miles to go

Some reforms agreed with the Fund are going to seriously impact economic growth and fresh investments, at least in the short term.
Iddat ruling
14 Jul, 2024

Iddat ruling

IT was a needless, despicable spectacle which only ended up uniting both conservatives and progressives in ...
Cricket shake-up
14 Jul, 2024

Cricket shake-up

SOMEONE had to take the blame and bear the brunt of the fallout from Pakistan’s disastrous showing at the T20 ...
Injustice undone
Updated 13 Jul, 2024

Injustice undone

The SC verdict is a stunning reversal of fortunes for a party that was, both before and after general elections, being treated as a defunct entity.
Looming flour shortage
13 Jul, 2024

Looming flour shortage

FOR once, it is hard to argue against the reason that compelled flour mills to call a nationwide strike from...
Same old script
13 Jul, 2024

Same old script

WHEN it comes to the troubling issue of enforced disappearances/ missing persons — either Baloch or belonging to...