COVID Watch | 1st February 2021

COVAX confirms 17 million Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine doses for Pakistan in the first half of 2021, while 500,000 vials of Sinopharm's COVID-19 vaccine arrive in the country as a goodwill gesture from China. Islamabad sets up nine vaccination centers for the inoculation of some 17,000 registered frontline healthcare workers. Punjab issues new SOP as on-campus classes for primary, middle and university students resume today.


Pakistan to receive 17 million Oxford-AstraZeneca doses

In a letter to Islamabad, the World Health Organization’s COVAX programme will supply 17 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine to Pakistan in the first half of 2021. Deliveries will begin in February, while a total of six million vials are expected to be received by March. The announcement was made by Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives, and head of the National Command and Operations Center (NCOC) Asad Umar via Twitter.

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Health Dr. Faisal Sultan also confirmed the news, reiterating that some 35 to 40 percent of the SARS-CoV- 2 doses will reach in the first quarter of the year while the rest will arrive by the second quarter. However, questions have emerged as to the efficacy of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for people aged 65 and above due to lack of clinical data. France has declared the vaccine ‘quasi-ineffective’ for the elderly. Meanwhile Germany will not administer AstraZeneca to citizens over 65 after declaring the number of volunteers aged 55 and above in the clinical trial insufficient to draw accurate efficacy estimates.

In another development, China’s goodwill shipment of half a million vials of Sinopharm vaccine are to arrive today. In the first phase of Pakistan’s vaccine delivery programme, about 400,000 registered frontline healthcare workers will be inoculated. Moreover, the government will begin registering citizens aged 65 in the coming two weeks for the second phase of COVID-19 vaccinations.

In the Federal Capital, the district health authorities have set up nine vaccination centers to inoculate some 17,000 registered frontline healthcare workers in Islamabad and Rawalpindi. Around 50 healthcare workers will be administered the vaccine at each center daily, amounting to a target of 450 vaccinations per day. Individuals will be expected to remain at the facility for up to half an hour after getting the shot to monitor any side-effects.

Punjab issues new SOP as schools reopen

The Punjab Primary and Secondary Healthcare Department issued fresh standard operating procedures (SOP) as on-campus classes for primary, middle and university students resume today on Monday, February 1.

Per the new guidelines, all private and public businesses must follow a policy of having half its staff work from home. People are required to wear masks in public at all times. While the health department lifted restrictions on outdoor dining after 10 PM, visiting parks after 6 PM remains banned. Mass gatherings and events indoors are barred, albeit outdoor weddings and celebrations for a maximum of 300 people at a time and with proper SOP in place are allowed.