1.5 million Sinovac doses arrive in Pakistan as country grapples with vaccine shortage

Published June 20, 2021
In this file photo, a batch of doses of Sinovac vaccine is being loaded onto a special PIA flight at the airport in Beijing. — APP
In this file photo, a batch of doses of Sinovac vaccine is being loaded onto a special PIA flight at the airport in Beijing. — APP

A special plane of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) carrying 1.55 million doses of the Sinovac vaccine reached Islamabad from China on Sunday as the country grappled with a shortage of the anti-Covid-19 jabs.

The National Command and Control Centre (NCOC) said in a statement that the batch was part of the "planned contracted quantity purchased from China".

Measures had been taken to transport the doses to all federating units as per their requirement, the NCOC said, adding that another tranche of two to three million Chinese vaccine doses is expected next week, which would be followed by continuous supply.

"China, as a time-tested friend of Pakistan, has taken special measures to ensure the uninterrupted supply of vaccine to Pakistan," the NCOC said.

The vaccine doses arrive at a crucial time for the country as shortages are reported across Pakistan with major vaccination centres in Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad and Rawalpindi either suspending vaccination or slowing down the process. As a result, the number of vaccinations, which was around 400,000 a day at the start of the current month, has been reduced by around 40 per cent.

An official of the Punjab health department earlier confirmed to Dawn that all the vaccination centres in the province, except the three in Lahore, were lying closed for the last three days or so due to the vaccine shortage.

All vaccination centres were also closed in Sindh on Sunday amid the shortages. Previously, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah said that 225 mobile vaccination units had been temporarily shut while the facility allowed to 60 private hospitals to administer vaccines was also ended.

Read: Enraged visitors break open Lahore Expo Centre’s gate for being denied jabs

A day earlier, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan shared a timeline for the vaccine supplies and claimed that the pressure in the system including local or distribution issues would be eased by Monday or Tuesday. Besides, he said, one million doses were available in Pakistan.

Later, Dr Sultan told the media that 1.55 million doses would arrive on June 20, 2.5m on June 22 and two to three million doses would arrive between June 23 and 30. He also made it clear that 400,000 doses of single-dose Pakvac (Cansino) would also be available by the end of this month.

Record vaccination this week

Meanwhile, Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives and NCOC Head Asad Umar said more than 2.3m vaccine doses were administered in the last week which he termed a "record".

Around 332,877 vaccines on average were administered daily in the last week, Umar added.

"With 1.5 million vaccines arriving today and another almost 5 million in next 10 days, inshallah next week will be a new record. Well done Pakistan," he tweeted.

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