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January 17, 2021

Astrazeneca’s vaccine allowed in Pakistan

Top Story

January 17, 2021

KARACHI: The Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) on Saturday gave emergency use authorization to Oxford-Astrazeneca’s AZD1222 in Pakistan following recommendations by a six-member panel of health experts. A private firm has been allowed to import the COVID-19 vaccine in the country.

“The Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) has given the emergency use authorization to Oxford-Astrazeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine in Pakistan,” Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Dr. Faisal Sultan told The News on Saturday.

A panel of six leading health scientists of the country, including three from the Aga Khan University (AKU) had been constituted by the government of Pakistan to review the data submitted by different vaccine manufacturers and to decide which vaccine should be allowed to be administered to the people, keeping in view its safety and efficacy during the trials.

The Sindh Medical Stores (SMS), a large importer of the vaccines and medicines in Pakistan, had applied for the emergency use authorization for the AZD1222 vaccine, jointly developed by the Oxford University and Astrazeneca and submitted its data as well as Emergency Use Authorization given to by the European and other international authorities.

The DRAP officials said, four to five international firms including three Chinese firms had applied for the emergency use authorization of their vaccines in Pakistan but based on the recommendations of the expert panel, they decided to give vaccine Astrazeneca, the emergency use authorization in the country.

“Allowing use of Astrazeneca’s AZD1222 vaccine in Pakistan in emergencies was relatively an easy decision for the expert panel as the vaccine already has been allowed by the EU and other leading health organisations emergency use authorization and based on their recommendations, we also approved it for emergency use in Pakistan,” a top official of the DRAP told The News. He, however, made it clear that DRAP’s approval has nothing to do with the availability of the vaccine in Pakistan, saying they were not sure when the importer would be able to procure the consignment of the vaccine as several countries had already pre-purchased millions of doses of this and other vaccines.

“At the moment, governments are dealing with each other to get COVID-19 vaccines so it is very unlikely that private firms would be able to get a handsome number of doses in the near future. However, it was mandatory to allow the import of vaccines being deployed across the world,” the official added.

Responding to a query, he said currently the expert panel was also looking at the data of Chinese vaccine manufacturers including Sinopharm, Cansino whose clinical trials are currently underway and Russian vaccine Sputnik V, which has to yet to formally apply to DRAP for the vaccine registration or emergency use authorization. In addition to that, another Chinese vaccine manufacturer Anhui Zhifei Longcom Biopharmaceutical has also applied for the Phase-III clinical trials of their “recombinant subunit COVID-19 vaccine” in Pakistan, the official said adding that the company is planning to recruit 29,000 volunteers across the world for its vaccine candidate. “Global trials by Chinese vaccine manufacturer Anhui Zhifei Longcom Biopharmaceutical are expected to be held in Uzbekistan, Indonesia, Pakistan and Ecuador,” the official added.