The Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap) has authorised the use of Chinese Covid-19 vaccine Sinopharm for people over 60 years of age, two months after the vaccine was first approved for use in the country.
Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) spokesperson Sajid Shah confirmed the authorisation for the said age group, adding that all healthcare workers registered with Nims (National Immunisation Management System) who were above 60 years could now get themselves vaccinated from designated Covid vaccine centers after the authorisation by Drap.
The approval comes a month after Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health (SAPM) Dr Faisal Sultan said the Sinopharm shot was not recommended for people older than 60 years.
The government's expert committee while considering the preliminary analysis of Sinopharm data had recommended that the vaccine be licensed for people aged 18-60 "at this stage", Dr Sultan had shared, adding that this was not an "unusual" scenario.
"When new medicines come, such things happen and the basis is whether that [age group of the] population or people with certain conditions were included in the research for it. When we get more data, perhaps it will be used for people above 60 as well."
Pakistan began its Covid-19 vaccination campaign last month, days after receiving half a million doses of the Sinopharm vaccine donated by China.
In the first phase, frontline healthcare workers were vaccinated. The registration process for healthcare workers who were not working on the frontline, including doctors, nurses and pharmacists, began from February 22.
The second phase of the vaccination campaign was due to start this week after Pakistan received 2.8 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine through the Covax programme. In this phase, senior citizens would be inoculated against the coronavirus.
However, the health ministry spokesperson told Dawn today that the delivery of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine through Covax had been delayed.
"We will get syringes next week and vaccine will arrive by mid or maybe in the second half of March," he added.