COVID Watch | 21st January 2021

Convalescent plasma therapy found ineffective in combating South African COVID-19 variant, raising concerns as to the efficacy of existing vaccines in protecting against this new strain; Oxford-AstraZeneca expected to cost Pakistan $6 to $7 per vial, however supply schedule unavailable as India is the sole manufacturer and supplier of the British vaccine in the region; government talks with Sinopharm and CanSinoBIO now at advanced levels


Plasma therapy ineffective in treating South African variant

Convalescent plasma was found ineffective in treating the South African 501Y.V2 COVID-19 variant as the virus is highly resistant to or complete escapes neutralizing antibodies. Experts understand that the discovery raises the prospects of reinfection with this strain, and have expressed their concern over the efficacy of existing ‘spike-based’ vaccines.

AstraZeneca may cost Pakistan $6 per vial

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is expected to cost the Government of Pakistan $6 to $7 per vial, although there is no timeline or schedule for when the vaccine will be available.

Pakistan is relying on the World Health Organization’s COVAX programme, which has pledged some 45 million vials that will inoculate 20% of the population. However, AstraZeneca is currently being manufactured by India, which is set to supply vials to neighbouring low-income countries – meanwhile or after the fact, the vaccine will be supplied to COVAX for global distribution.

So far only Pakistan and China are not on India’s schedule for supply – according to an Indian government official, Pakistan has not requested assistance.

Pakistan in advanced talks with two vaccine firms

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr. Faisal Sultan on Wednesday confirmed that the Pakistan government is engaged with advanced level talks with the Chinese government-owned Sinopharm and the joint Canadian-Chinese CanSinoBIO for procurement of vaccines. Sinopharm is reported to have an efficacy between 80 to 85 percent and has been registered with the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) for emergency use. CanSinoBIO on the other hand has yet to register with DRAP as it is expected to complete its phase three clinical trials in the coming weeks.