ISLAMABAD: While 1,502 more people were infected with coronavirus and 57 lost their lives across the country in a single day, the government has allowed private companies to import Covid-19 vaccine and exempted price cap on its sale in the local market.
However, import of only registered vaccine of credible pharmaceutical companies will be allowed and its price will be fixed once the vaccine is easily available in the international market.
“Decision has been taken to provide an opportunity to private companies to import vaccine and help save precious lives. However, import of only registered vaccine, which is already being used in the countries where it has been manufactured, will be allowed,” an official of the Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) said on condition of anonymity.
He said Covid-19 vaccine was not available in the market as most of the vaccine was being sold through bilateral agreements between countries or given to Covax, an international alliance, which had pledged to provide free vaccine for 20 per cent population of Pakistan.
“However, some of the companies approached the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap) and claimed that they can arrange the vaccine and requested for selling it in the market. So it was decided to allow them to import the vaccine and save the lives of those people who can afford to buy the vaccine directly from the market,” he said.
PM’s aide says no reference cost is available anywhere in the world to fix jab’s price
Replying to a question, the official said it was almost impossible to fix the vaccine’s price as currently it was being sold at different prices. “In India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been trying to persuade companies to sell the vaccine to countries at concessional rates. He is doing so as some companies are producing the vaccine in India. China is also doing the same. China has donated Covid-19 vaccine to Pakistan and is also providing the vaccine to a number of countries at concessional rates. So we are not in a position to fix its price,” he said.
“The matter was sent to the federal cabinet which allowed private companies to import the vaccine and exempted price cap on its sale in the local market. Drap will strictly monitor the process of vaccination as record of every person/purchaser will be maintained. We will fix the price once the vaccine will be easily available in the international market and its price stabilises,” he said.
The official said the companies would not be allowed to use people for clinical trial of the vaccine and would have to provide certificate of analysis and other relevant documents.
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan told Dawn that private procurement of Covid-19 vaccine was being allowed but it would not be primary methodology of vaccination in Pakistan.
Replying to a question, he said no reference price was available in the world to fix the vaccine’s price. “The government will enforce one, once it’s available from any country and will also review the prices being charged,” he added.
Spokesperson for the Ministry of NHS Sajid Shah, while talking to Dawn, said the government had been providing free vaccine to the masses and already announced a policy under which frontline healthcare workers and people of over 65 years of age would be vaccinated in the first stage.
“However, in the meanwhile, if vaccine arrives through the private sector, it will benefit those people who can afford to buy it, thus saving precious lives,” he added.
It is worth mentioning that currently only 500,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccine, donated by China, have arrived in Pakistan. The country has pre-booked another 1.1 million doses of the vaccine from Chinese company Sinopharm.
Moreover, Covax has announced providing 17 million free doses by the end of March.
The vaccination drive was launched by Prime Minister Imran Khan on February 2.
According to data of the National Command and Operation Centre, as many as 1,502 Covid-19 cases and 57 deaths were reported across the country over the past 24 hours. Moreover, 267 ventilators were occupied on Thursday — 37pc in Multan, 35pc in Lahore, 28pc in Peshawar and 23pc in Islamabad.
The number of active cases was 30,225 and 2,189 patients were admitted to different hospitals across the country on Thursday.
A total of 559,093 cases have been detected and 12,185 deaths reported since the start of the pandemic on February 26, 2020 in the country.
Published in Dawn, February 12th, 2021