ISLAMABAD: As new Covid-19 variants emerge across the globe, Pakistan has managed to obtain another 300,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

“Although currently no country has made it mandatory to get vaccinated against Covid-19 before travelling, there is a possibility that Saudi Arabia may declare the vaccination mandatory as people will gather there during Ramazan and then on the occasion of Haj,” Chief of the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) at the National Institute of Health (NIH) Dr Mumtaz Ali Khan told Dawn.

Mr Khan said as per the request of the government of Pakistan, vaccines had been provided free of charge by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

“Currently, we are getting demand from the provinces and the health facilities of the federal capital that the vaccine be provided. We had planned to arrange the vaccine in the month of February, and now it has been arranged,” he said.

Replying to a question, Dr Khan said recently a new variant of Covid-19 had surfaced, and then it travelled to a number of countries, including Pakistan.

“There is a possibility that some new variants may surface in the coming months. It was our responsibility to ensure the availability of vaccines,” he said.

Mr Khan noted that although no country had declared the vaccination mandatory for travellers, because of the sensitivity of the issue, steps were taken to arrange the vaccination.

It is worth mentioning that in September 2023, a sub-variant of Omicron JN.1 started circulating in the United States (US).

However, by December, the pace of the virus’s spread had increased, and later it travelled to a number of countries, including Pakistan.

On December 19, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared JN.1 a variant of interest due to its “rapidly increasing spread.”

It must be mentioned here that the Covid-19 virus was detected in China in December 2019 and then started spreading to other countries.

Pakistan had closed its borders and taken a number of steps to stop the transmission, due to which the first case of Covid-19 was reported in the last week of February 2020.

On March 13, the first meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC), composed of top civil and military leadership, was held to discuss the crisis, which was later declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Published in Dawn, February 12th, 2024

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