COVID Watch | 11th January 2021

45 million vaccine vials to be received by Pakistan by the UN's COVAX program will only inoculate just 20% of the population; anti-gen rapid diagnostic testing speeds up COVID-19 detection in the province; presence of new B.1.1.7 strain not found in contacts of traced returnees from the UK in Sindh


Just 20 percent of population may be vaccinated

The Government of Pakistan has so far made an initial purchase of 1.1 million vaccine doses from the Chinese state-owned pharmaceutical firm Sinopharm for the inoculation of frontline healthcare workers and the elderly in the first two phases of vaccine delivery. However, this only constitutes just 0.5 percent of the population. The country is currently awaiting some 45 million promised vaccine vials from the United Nations’ COVAX program, which aims to secure and provide coronavirus vaccines to poor nations. However, the international body has yet to procure its target supply. Moreover, vaccines reserved for Pakistan will be delivered to just 20 percent of the total population.

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr. Faisal Sultan clarified that after procuring 1.1 million vials from Sinopharm, further consignments will be purchased gradually. Furthermore, the private sector which may import other internationally approved vaccines, will likely cater to some three to four percent of the population.

Rapid testing speeds up detection in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa health department’s use of anti-gen rapid diagnostic tests (Ag-RDT) in the past two weeks has led to faster detection of COVID-19 in suspected patients. Ag-RDT gives results within 30 minutes of receiving a sample and does not require specialised technicians, unliked polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing. Around 100,000 Ag-RDT kits have been distributed across the province. So far, 16,422 anti-gen tests have been conducted in the past two weeks from which 626 positive cases have been detected.

Five UK returnees’ contacts traced in Sindh

The Sindh health department managed to trace five citizens in recently returned from the UK who tested positive for the mutated B.1.1.7 variant which emerged in Britain late last year. The virus-positive individuals had travelled to Karachi – the provincial health authorities found no presence of the virus among the returnees’ contacts.

On December 29, three women aged between 19 and 37 were found positive for the new strain. Two days later, two more male returnees were confirmed to be infected with the UK strain. However, all five individuals have been reported to be in stable condition and recovering from the virus.