Saudi envoy to take up Chinese vaccines issue with authorities

Published June 5, 2021
(Clockwise) Ayesha Shehzadi, a lab technician, carries out testing procedure for PakVac coronavirus vaccine, which is being produced at the National Institute of Health (NIH) in Islamabad. Staff work in the production room while packaging PakVac vaccine. A general view of the laboratory building. Dr Omar Saeed, the project coordinator who was part of phase 3 trials of the vaccine, stands on the premises of the NIH. A lab technician displays packs of PakVac vaccine. — Reuters
(Clockwise) Ayesha Shehzadi, a lab technician, carries out testing procedure for PakVac coronavirus vaccine, which is being produced at the National Institute of Health (NIH) in Islamabad. Staff work in the production room while packaging PakVac vaccine. A general view of the laboratory building. Dr Omar Saeed, the project coordinator who was part of phase 3 trials of the vaccine, stands on the premises of the NIH. A lab technician displays packs of PakVac vaccine. — Reuters

KARACHI: Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to Pakistan Nawaf bin Saeed Al-Maliki has assured Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah that he will take up with the Saudi authorities the issue of approval of Chinese Covid-19 vaccines to enable Haj pilgrims from Pakistan to visit Saudi Arabia, it emerged on Friday.

Official sources said the request for vaccines approval was made by the chief minister when the Saudi ambassador along with Consul General Bandar Al Dayal and a delegation of King Salman Relief Organisation called on him at CM House.

At the outset of the meeting, the chief minister of Sindh informed the ambassador that since Saudi Arabia had not included the Chinese vaccines for Haj pilgrims, a wave of disappointment prevailed among the people of Pakistan. The government had administered Chinese Covid-19 vaccines to citizens of Pakistan, the CM said.

“Now our people are quite upset that they would not be allowed to visit Saudi Arabia, as they have vaccination certificates for Chinese vaccines,” he said.

The ambassador assured the chief minister that he would take up the Chinese vaccines issue with the Saudi authorities.

The chief minister thanked the ambassador.

Medical camp

The visiting diplomat had brought a delegation of doctors of King Salman Medical Centre with him to set up a weeklong medical camp in Karachi and Shikarpur.

The Saudi doctors would check eye and heart patients and would perform surgeries, if required.

Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Pechuho informing the visiting delegation that eye surgery could be performed at the camp suggested the visiting team that open-heart surgery could be performed only at relevant operating theatres. “We have cardiac hospitals in Sukkur, Tando Mohammed Khan and in Karachi where open heart surgery can be performed easily,” she added.

The chief minister asked the health minister and secretary to hold a separate meeting with the Saudi Arabian doctors and make a proper plan for their camps and provide them necessary facilities and security.

The CM also presented Ajrak and traditional Sindhi caps to the visiting guests and thanked them for their support and cooperation.

Covid fatalities

According to an update issued by the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), coronavirus claimed 83 more lives, including 52 in Punjab and 16 in Sindh, during the past 24 hours.

The chief minister in a statement explained that the death of 16 more patients in Sindh lifted the death toll to 5,105, constituting 1.6 per cent death rate. He said 14,937 samples were tested that detected 925 cases indicating six per cent current detection rate.

So far, he said, 4,166,527 tests had been conducted across the province against which 322,333 cases were diagnosed, of them 91 per cent or 293,510 patients recovered, including 1,509 overnight.

Currently 23,718 patients were under treatment, of them 22,748 were in home isolation, 25 at isolation centers and 945 at different hospitals, the statement added.

According to the NCOC, 1,893 more people across Pakistan tested positive for the deadly virus and 3,431 people recovered from the disease during the past one day bringing the national tally of total active cases to 51,478 on Friday, adds APP.

Of the 83 patients who died in a single day, 74 were receiving treatment at different hospitals across the country while nine had quarantined themselves at their home or other places.

Most of these deaths were recorded in Punjab.

Currently 3,557 Covid patients were in critical care in various dedicated healthcare facilities.

Maximum ventilators were in use of Covid patients in three cities of Punjab and the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Of all the ventilators in Multan, 62 per cent ventilators were occupied, 36pc of ventilators in Bahawalpur hospitals and 31pc of all ventilators in Lahore and Peshawar hospitals were occupied.

Besides the ventilators, over one third of all oxygenated beds in Multan, Karachi, Abbottabad and Bahawalpur were in use of Covid patients.

No Covid patient was on ventilator in Balochistan, Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and Gilgit Baltistan (GB).

On Thursday, some 52,859 tests for Covid-19 were conducted across the country including 21,908 in Punjab, 15,741 in Sindh, 8,255 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), 4,319 in Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT), 1,655 in Balochistan, 354 in GB, and 627 in AJK.

During the past 24 hours, Covid positivity ratio — the percentage of actual positive cases appearing in every 100 tests performed to identify infected individuals — was 3.58 per cent.

In all, around 856,005 people have recovered from the deadly disease so far across Pakistan, making it a significant count with over 90 percent recovery ratio of the affected patients.

Since the pandemic outbreak, a total of 928,588 cases were detected that also included the perished, recovered and under treatment patients. Among them, 341,390 cases were recorded in Punjab, followed by 321,425 in Sindh, 133,746 in KP, 81,540 in ICT, 25,476 in Balochistan, 19,388 in AJK and 5,623 in GB.

So far, the novel coronavirus disease has claimed as many as 21,105 lives. Among them, Sindh reported 5,089, Punjab reported 10,184 and KP reported 4,125 deaths. A total of 763 Covid patients in Islamabad, 287 in Balochistan, 107 in GB and 550 in AJK have died till date.

A total of 13,420,779 (or 13.4 million) tests for the virus have been conducted across the country since the outbreak of the pandemic.

Vaccine production

As Pakistan has started producing the single-dose Chinese CanSinoBio Covid-19 vaccine to be able to deliver three million doses a month from July, the National Institute of Health (NIH) said an initial batch of 118,000 doses of the vaccine was ready to be delivered to the government on Friday, adds Reuters.

The statement came two days after the inauguration of the production plant in Islamabad.

Pakistan signed a deal with CanSinoBio late March to import a concentrate of the vaccine in bulk to process and package the vaccine locally. “This is a co-production along with CanSino in Pakistan,” NIH executive director Prof Aamer Ikram said.

Ikram said the Chinese firm was supplying a vaccine concentrate that the plant then formulated, processed and packaged. CanSinBio had transferred some of its production technology to Pakistan and is supervising operations, he added.

Quality control was being carried out by Pakistan. “We’ve acquired technology and expertise to ensure quality control,” he said.

Pakistan has so far relied heavily on China in vaccine procurement and of the six vaccines approved for use in the country, three — Sinopharm, SinoVac and CanSinoBio — are from China.

The government says it has procured over 18 million vaccine doses via purchases or donations from China and allocations from the World Health Organisation and the GAVI Vaccine Alliance.

The inoculation programme has administered 8.5 million doses of coronavirus vaccines so far, according to official figures.

Published in Dawn, June 5th, 2021

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