KARACHI: The first shipment of the privately-imported Russian COVID-19 vaccine, Gam-COVID-Vac or Sputnik V, comprising 50,000 doses arrived at the Jinnah International Airport in Karachi on Wednesday night, officials said.
According to officials, the vaccine will be provided to large hospitals and institutions for administration to people who can afford the jab.
“I congratulate AGP Limited for receiving the first batch of Sputnik V vaccine comprising 50,000 doses. From now onwards, shipments of this highly effective COVID-19 vaccine will be delivered to Pakistan at regular intervals and help the country fight the pandemic”, Russian trade representative in Karachi Ruslan Aliev told The News while handing over the ship to AGP Limited officials.
Double-dose Sputnik V has become the first COVID-19 vaccine now available in Pakistan in the private sector as earlier the country was relying on Chinese Sinopharm vaccine, which is being donated to the government of Pakistan by Chinese authorities to vaccinate its frontline healthcare workers and the elderly population.
Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) had granted emergency use authorisation to the Russian COVID-19 vaccine in the last week of January 2021. Last week, the registration board of the DRAP had also declared the Russian vaccine suitable for administration to the elderly population following recommendations of a committee of experts.
Officials of the private pharmaceutical firm AGP said they have initially procured 50,000 doses of the Russian vaccine which can be used to vaccinate 25,000 adults, adding that around 150,000 more doses of the vaccine are expected to reach Pakistan by the end of the current week.
“This vaccine will be administered through hospitals and institutions that are authorised by the government as COVID-19 Vaccination Centers,” an official of the AGP said, adding that during next few days, the vaccine would be supplied to the hospitals and institutions having approval from the government.
The private firm official said Aurugulf Health Investment has appointed the Private Office of Sheikh Ahmed Dalmook Al Maktoum to develop, distribute and market the product in Pakistan, which in turn has appointed AGP Limited for sales and distribution.
Meanwhile, DRAP officials said although the private firm had imported the vaccine, it can not sell it to hospitals and institutions unless the government fixes the price of the vaccine, which could take a few days or even some weeks.
“Earlier the government had allowed the private sector to import and sell the COVID-19 vaccine on the price of their choice but recently, the federal government revoked its earlier policy and decided to fix the price itself.
"Now the pricing board of DRAP would fix the price and send it to the cabinet for approval and following approval, the private sector would be able to sell it locally,”an official of the drug authority told The News on condition of anonymity.
To a query, the official said until the price of the vaccine is fixed by the government, the COVID-19 vaccine will remain under the cold storage of the private firm.
It is worth mentioning that Sindh health minister Dr. Azra Pechuho had told journalists in Karachi that Russians had quoted USD 26-28 for the two doses of vaccine to the Sindh government.
The Sindh government had approached them to consider procuring it for vaccinating the people of Sindh with the provincial government bearing the expense.
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