March 12th, 2021
By Staff Reporter
Pakistan has finalized a deal with a Chinese company for the purchase of COVID vaccine doses but critics say despite the agreement the country will not have enough doses on time to vaccinate the entire population.
Naushin Hamid, Parliamentary Secretary for National Health Regulation, says the federal government has concluded an agreement with CanSinoBio, a Chinese company, for the purchase of COVID vaccine doses.
Currently, the federal government has launched a vaccination campaign for elderly citizens from a million doses of Sinopharm vaccine donated by China.
The doses of the CanSinoBio vaccine under the purchase agreement will be arriving in the country in the coming days, Naushin Hamid said on The Spotlight with Munizae Jahangir news show on 10th March.
However, the parliamentarian said she could not give an exact timeframe of the arrival of the vaccine doses.
The federal government had come under criticism for not signing pre-booking agreements with major vaccine manufacturers. Hamid said the government was in negotiation with several of the manufacturers and finalized booking with CanSinoBio because the results from the company’s vaccine trials showed 65.7% efficacy in preventing symptomatic COVID cases and a 90.98% success rate in stopping severe infections.
According to results from the Pakistani trials, the efficacy of the vaccine at preventing symptomatic cases was 74.8% and 100% at preventing severe disease.
Hamid said the CanSinoBio vaccine was a single-dose, unlike others that required two shots for protection against the pandemic. She said the Chinese company is bound to timely supply doses to countries including Pakistan where it had conducted vaccine trials.
She said the Economic Coordination Committee had approved $150 million for the purchase of COVID vaccines. According to the National Institute of Health Executive Director Maj Gen Aamir Aamer Ikram, the cost of a single dose of the CanSinoBio vaccine is $13.
Clarifying that the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan has not approved commercial imports of COVID vaccines, she said the DRAP had approved the import of CanSinoBio, Astra-Zeneca, and Sputnik vaccines. However, the Pakistani pharmaceutical companies have not been able to import the vaccines as the batches were small in size for manufacturers which were currently delivering large batches to countries.
Under the Covax scheme for poorer countries, Pakistan is to receive 14 million doses of free Astra-Zeneca vaccine before June. However, Noshin Hamid confirmed news reports that the shipment of the free doses has been delayed by two weeks, adding that there is enough stock of doses to cover the current campaign for vaccination of people over sixty years of age. She said the doses from the Covax scheme will cover 20 percent of the population.
However, Dr. Ashraf Nizami, President of the Punjab chapter of the Pakistan Medical Association, contested claims that Pakistan would be able to purchase the COVID and timely vaccinate its general population.
“Pakistan has delayed financing agreements with vaccine manufacturers, I don’t think the companies will be able to provide vaccine doses as they will be fulfilling commitments made earlier with other countries,” he said in the Spotlight news show.
Dr. Nizami pointed out the dismal state of Pakistan’s vaccination campaign in comparison with other South Asian Countries. “Sri Lanka, Maldives, Bangladesh, and India are way above Pakistan’s dismal percentage of 0.03,” he said.
According to the data on the COVID vaccination drive of the general population, Maldives was on top with 23.94% population given COVID vaccine shots, followed by Sri Lanka with 2.59%. In Bangladesh, 2.03% of the population has been vaccinated while it was 1.2% in India.
The PMA official also regretted that the government had not done much towards the production of the vaccine in the country, referring to the example of India which produced the vaccine in collaboration with vaccine manufacturers.
“India had gifted 5.5 million doses to its neighbors while Pakistan received 0.5 million doses from China only,” he said.
According to government officials, the CanSinoBi vaccine would also be manufactured partially in Pakistan, following its successful conclusion of trials at five leading health institutions in the country.
Health officials had said the single-dose Chinese vaccine could be administered to people of all ages as it was found effective among people from 18 to 80 plus years of age during trials in Pakistan and other countries of the world.
Dr. Nizami also highlighted that the vaccination drive was slow as the government did not run any public awareness campaign. “The government prioritized vaccination of the health workers in the country but even I as a health professional is unaware of how to register for the vaccine dose,” he said.
He said commercial imports of the vaccines should not be allowed as it was the responsibility of the State to vaccinate all citizens.
Noshin Hamid said the government would launch a proper awareness campaign about the COVID vaccination to improve public response.
“In the coming days, the Prime Minister, the President, and the Federal Ministers will be taking vaccine shots to raise awareness about its effectiveness in preventing the pandemic,” she said.