China gifts another 500,000 doses of Covid vaccine

Published March 18, 2021
China on Wednesday gifted another 500,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccine to Pakistan. — Photo provided by Naveed Siddiqui
China on Wednesday gifted another 500,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccine to Pakistan. — Photo provided by Naveed Siddiqui

• Privately-imported Russian jabs arrive in Karachi
• Minister says vaccination process has gathered pace
• Coronavirus slogan changed at suggestion of Council of Islamic Ideology

ISLAMABAD / KARACHI: As the vaccination process gains momentum, China on Wednesday gifted another 500,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccine to Pakistan while the first consignment of the privately-imported Russian vaccine reached Karachi.

Meanwhile, Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar has claimed that over 41,000 people have been vaccinated in a single day, out of which 28,424 are senior citizens.

The National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), on the other hand, reported 2,351 cases and 61 deaths in the last 24 hours with the number of active cases rising to 22,792.

In another development, the government changed the slogan to fight Covid-19 from ‘We should not fear coronavirus, we need to fight it’ to ‘Coronavirus is a pandemic, precaution is its cure’. The step was taken in line with the decision of the federal cabinet and as per the recommendation of the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII).

Commercial Minister Counsellor of China Xie Guoxiang handed over a consignment of 500,000 doses of the Chinese state-owned company Sinopharm’s vaccine to Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan at Nur Khan Airbase.

So far Beijing has donated one million doses of Sinopharm vaccine to Islamabad. Besides, it has gifted a consignment to the Pakistani armed forces but the military decided to surrender the vaccine to the frontline healthcare workers.

Speaking on the occasion, Dr Sultan said China had stood by Pakistan through thick and thin.

“We are thankful to the government of China for its support,” he said.

An official of the National Institute of Health, requesting not to be named, said the vaccines were shifted to a warehouse of the Expanded Programme of Immunisation.

“We had requested China to provide the vaccine before March 23 and as soon as the vaccine was acquired, we started sending them out to the provinces. We have been trying to procure the vaccine as well and hopefully by the end of the current month we will get the vaccine of two Chinese companies — Cansino and Sinopharm,” he added.

Ministry of National Health Services spokesperson Sajid Shah told Dawn that the government had fulfilled all its promises and there would be no shortage of the vaccine.

“However it is the responsibility of the people to strictly adhere to the standard operating procedures and get inoculated so that herd immunity is achieved,” he added.

In a tweet, Asad Umar claimed that the pace of vaccination had increased.

“Highest daily vaccination rate of over 41 thousand vaccinations yesterday. Of these 28,424 vaccinations were carried out of senior citizens. Please encourage everyone who is 70 plus to register to get vaccinated,” the minister tweeted.

On the other hand, Pakistan Medical Association Secretary General Dr Qaisar Sajjad received his Covid-19 vaccine on Wednesday.

He requested all doctors to get themselves inoculated at the earliest.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Religious Affairs, on the recommendation of the CII and the decision of the federal cabinet, issued a notification, stating that the slogan, ‘We should not fear coronavirus, we need to fight it’ (Corona Say Darna Nahin Larna Hai) had been changed to ‘Coronavirus is a pandemic, precaution is its cure’ (Corona Waba Hai, Ehtiyat Jis Ki Shifa Hai).

The notification will be published in the Gazette of Pakistan. All stakeholders, including media, have been directed to use the new slogan.

According to the NCOC data, 2,351 people got infected and 61 succumbed to the virus in a single day.

There were 263 ventilators in use across the country and 22,792 active cases on Wednesday. Overall 2,487 patients were admitted to hospitals in the country.

Sputnik V vaccine

The first consignment of the privately imported Covid-19 vaccine arrived in Karachi on Wednesday.

A local pharmaceutical company, which was allowed its import and distribution, said it would distribute 50,000 doses of the Russia-developed Sputnik V to large hospitals and institutions for administration to people who could afford the jab.

The health officials and experts believe that the development would help expedite the pace of the vaccination across the country and shift the burden of the government which was often criticised by a segment of health fraternity and opposition parties for its slow pace of inoculation.

The Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap) in January 2021 had given a go-ahead to a local pharmaceutical firm, AGP, to import and distribute the Russian-developed Sputnik V.

A private airline plane carrying the first consignment landed at Quaid-i-Azam International Airport which was received by Russian diplomats, health officials and representatives of the pharmaceutical company.

“I hope that from now onwards, shipments of our highly effective (Covi-19) vaccines would be delivered to Pakistan frequently to help meet this challenge [of vaccination],” Russian trade representative Ruslan Aliev told reporters while handing over the consignment to AGP Limited officials at a brief ceremony at the airport.

“I congratulate the company. It’s a global challenge and anyone’s contribution in this challenge must be appreciated,” he said.

“Sputnik V is the world’s first registered vaccine based on a well-studied human adenoviral vector-based platform,” said the information available on the vaccine’s website.

“It currently ranks among top 10 candidate vaccines approaching the end of clinical trials and the start of mass production on the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) list.

The Sputnik V post-registration clinical trial in Russia involved 40,000 volunteers, it said, adding that clinical trials of the vaccine had been announced in the UAE, India, Venezuela and Belarus.

“Under the devised strategy, this vaccine will be administered through hospitals and institutions that are authorised by the government as Covid-19 vaccination centres. We would be supplying to the hospitals and institutions having approval from the government in the next few days,” an AGP official said.

A Drap official, however, made it clear that private firms importing the vaccines could not sell it to hospitals and health institutions. The government, he said, would first fix the prices, which could take a few days or weeks.

“The federal government earlier had decided to allow the importers to sell the Covid-19 vaccines in line with their business plan and strategy,” he said.

“However, this policy was reviewed and now it has been decided that the government would fix the prices itself. The pricing board of Drap would take up the matter and after its approval, it would be sent to the federal cabinet for the final nod,” the official added.

Published in Dawn, March 18th, 2021

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