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January 15, 2021

Pakistan has not placed orders for Covid-19 vaccine: Dr Faisal

Top Story

January 15, 2021

KARACHI: Pakistan has neither placed any final order yet to acquire COVID-19 vaccine nor any vaccine manufacturer has accepted the country’s request for the supply of vaccine, top federal government health authorities confirmed to The News on Thursday.

“Although, we are striving hard to get the first batch of COVID-19 vaccine at the earliest for our frontline workers and others but the final order has not yet been placed and accepted (by any vaccine manufacturer),” Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Dr. Faisal Sultan told The News in a telephonic interview.

Several countries, especially developed countries, have already started vaccinating their frontline workers against COVID-19 and hundreds of thousands of people have been given both the doses of different vaccines but developing countries like Pakistan are still struggling to acquire safe and effective vaccine.

The Special Assistant to PM on health said that although they were trying to get the vaccine as soon as possible but no exact date could be given, saying health authorities and an expert committee were studying different options to acquire one or more ‘safe and effective’ vaccines for the people.

Dr. Sultan maintained that so far China’s Sinopharm has submitted its data with Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) and the health authorities are negotiating with the firm for the supply of vaccine but there was no agreement with them as yet.

“The second vaccine candidate is Cansino, whose trials are currently underway and they are a couple of weeks away from submitting their data to us. We are also interested in Russian vaccine Sputnik V, who have submitted some data but we have sought more data from them,” he informed.

Commenting on acquisition of Western vaccines, he said negotiations are underway with the Astrazeneca’s manufacturer. “We are trying to get Astrazeneca vaccine both through the Covax facility and through direct procurement,” he added.

Health authorities in Pakistan say they have a target to vaccinate around 100 million of its adult population or at least 70-80 million people and it will take time and ‘mix and match’ of vaccines to vaccinate the targeted population.

On the other hand, members of an expert committee on COVID-19 vaccine and officials at the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) said Pakistan was ‘not rushing to acquire’ COVID-19 vaccine from any country after disappointing data of China’s Sinovac vaccine during its trials in Brazil.

The Chinese vaccine was only found to be 50.4% effective in Brazilian clinical trials which shows that more data is required as using a 50 percent effective vaccine would be a total waste of efforts and resources. “We need to assess the data of the vaccine’s efficacy ourselves before selecting it for the population. We would prefer a vaccine which has an emergency use authorization either from US FDA, European authorities or the World Health Organization or its data shows at least 80-90 percent efficacy and safety,” an official of the DRAP told The News.

Researchers associated with the phase three clinical trials of China’s Cansino vaccine also said ‘a few weeks’ were required for the first interim analysis of the vaccine, highlighting a more careful approach to select a vaccine for the people, based on complete data of the trials.