Notices issued on plea for fair distribution of Covid-19 vaccines

Published March 31, 2021
The Sindh High Court on Tuesday issued notices to the federal and Sindh health authorities on a petition seeking fair distribution and vaccination of Covid-19 vaccines. — AP/File
The Sindh High Court on Tuesday issued notices to the federal and Sindh health authorities on a petition seeking fair distribution and vaccination of Covid-19 vaccines. — AP/File

KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Tuesday issued notices to the federal and Sindh health authorities on a petition seeking fair distribution and vaccination of Covid-19 vaccines.

The petitioners also sought directives of the SHC to respondents for the legislation to establish a proper mechanism for import and distribution of vaccines.

They submitted that the private sector had been authorised to acquire/import the vaccines for sale but the price of two vaccines was fixed at a higher rate than that of a neighbouring country.

After a preliminary hearing, a two-judge bench headed by Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar issued notices to the federal secretaries ministries of National Health Services (NHS) and establishment division, chief executive officer of the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap) and Sindh health secretary as well as deputy attorney general and additional advocate general for April 6.

Petitioners say vaccines imported by private sector should be available as per WHO’s approved rates

In another petition, a lawyer submitted before the same bench that all the vaccines had been received so far through donations only, while a federal law officer submitted that the federation was also importing the vaccines and he would file details on April 6.

The main petition was filed by Nadeem Shaikh and Saleem Michael, who said that as per government data, more than 586,000 cases of Covid-19 had so far been detected with 13,128 deaths and last month the authorities opened up vaccinations for front-line healthcare workers across the country with arrival of around 500,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine donated by the Chinese government.

They maintained that the respondents had so far confirmed supplies of around 15.85m doses of the Sinopharm and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines arriving through the grants of Chinese and the Covax initiative by the end of May.

However, they argued that in a country of 220 million people it would not be enough to cover the population and maintained that that the federal government had also authorised the private sector to acquire vaccines for sale, though no company had yet been able to do so due to a shortage of global vaccine supplies.

They contended that the price for Russian Sputnik V vaccine had been fixed at Rs8,449 for two doses and Chinese vaccine at Rs4,225 per jab while in India the price per dose of vaccine was between Rs700 and Rs800 and the global price of the said vaccine was only US$10 per dose.

They further submitted that the laboratories conducting Covid-19 tests were not according to the standard set by the World Health Organization as a patient with ordinary flu and fever was declared positive.

They pleaded for directives to the authorities for legislation about import and distribution of vaccines, to keep check and balance on the prices of the vaccines as per WHO’s approved rates as well as to keep strict watch on the laboratories conducting such tests.

Meanwhile, in another petition filed last year against closure of OPD services in hospitals, a deputy director, ministry of NHS, submitted that the vaccination of persons over 60 had been started while people around 50 were being vaccinated from March 30.

At this, petitioner Asim Iqbal submitted that all vaccinations had been received through donations on which an assistant attorney general submitted that the federation was also importing vaccines and he would file a detailed statement on the next hearing.

Published in Dawn, March 31st, 2021

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