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April 8, 2021

Centre has allocated $150m for procurement of Covid-19 vaccines, SHC told

Karachi

April 8, 2021

The federal government has allocated an amount of $150 million for procurement of safe and effective life-saving Covid-19 vaccines to immunise the eligible population in the country with a special focus on the most vulnerable segments, a deputy director of the federal ministry of health services told the Sindh High Court (SHC) on Tuesday.

Filing comments on a court query with regard to general import of Covid-19 vaccines in the country, the federal health ministry official submitted that no serious adverse event had so far been reported in Pakistan after almost 850,000 inoculations given to different priority groups till date, including elderly populations.

He submitted that a committee of independent experts under auspices of the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan had been tasked with ensuring that only safe and efficacious Covid-19

vaccines were imported into the country for different age groups.

The official informed the SHC that a cabinet committee for Covid-19 vaccine procurement had been established to guide the ministry of health, and under the umbrella of the National Coordination Committee and the National Command and Operation Centre, the ministry was striving relentlessly to acquire safe and effective Covid-19 vaccines. He submitted that clear guidelines and standard operating procedures for different Covid-19 vaccines had been developed.

The SHC was told that phase–III trials of Covid-19 vaccines had been conducted in Pakistan for the first time to ensure the efficacy and effectiveness in local context. He submitted that a three-pronged strategy had been adopted to ensure the availability of Covid-19 vaccines, illustrating the government’s commitment to vaccinating the eligible population in a phased manner using three modalities, including government-to-government bilateral agreements, Gavi’s Covax facility and donations.

The official submitted that quality preparations for implementation of the national vaccine development plan had helped Pakistan benefit from in-kind assistance from Gavi’s covax facility for vaccinating around 45 million population.

The health officer said that successful negotiations had been conducted with the World Bank (WB) and Asian Development Bank (ADB) to manage resources for the procurement of vaccines for 10 million and 13.5 million people respectively. He added that all the acquired vacines through these means shall be provided to the people of Pakistan free of charge.

He submitted that the private sector was also being enabled to import quality vaccines duly approved by the drug authority for quick immunisation of people who could afford to buy vaccines from the private sector.

He said that considering the fact the Covid-19 was a novel pathogen and vaccines against it were just coming up, all the initial requirements to vaccinate priority populations would be met through import from different manufactures. He submitted that negotiations were also under way to initiate shared local production with Chinese firm (Cansinobio) through collaboration with the National Institute of Health.

Sharing details of vaccines received through grant and procurement, he submitted that 1.5 million doses of Sinopharm were received through grant and one million through procurement, while 60,000 doses of Cansino Bio were also procured.

The health ministry official submitted that additionally, Gavi through its Covax facility planned to cover 20 per cent of the national population (approximately 45 million people) during the period June-December 2021. He added that any additional requirements shall be met through available resources from the government of Pakistan as well as through agreements with the WB an ADB.

He submitted that the government aimed to vaccinate all the eligible population irrespective of their profession, gender, race, origin, etc., however, due to uncertainty regarding vaccine availability, certain segments of society were being given a priority, including the healthcare workers, elderly and vulnerable populations.

A division bench of the SHC headed by Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar, after taking the comments on record, adjourned the hearing for three weeks.