Pakistan in talks with China, Russia to get vaccines

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ISLAMABAD, DEC 7 – Health authorities are negotiating with China and Russia, among others, to procure coronavirus vaccines, an official said on Monday.

“We are in talks with China, Russia and some other countries for procurement of the [Covid-19] vaccine after narrowing down our priority list,” Dr Faisal Sultan, special assistant to the prime minister on health, told Anadolu Agency.

The vaccine, he said, would be available in Pakistan sometime between January and March next year, and administered to health workers and senior citizens in the first phase.

“There is nothing final yet; however, I can tell you that we have to rely on more than one source,” the adviser said. “We will procure the vaccine only after its efficacy and safety is proven.”

While Russia has started the distribution of its Sputnik V Covid-19 shot nationwide, China is testing its vaccines in many countries, and supply deals are being signed.

Other vaccines seeking emergency use authorisation are produced by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Oxford-AstraZeneca.

Islamabad has already earmarked an initial sum of $150 million to purchases the doses. In a press conference earlier this month, Dr Sultan had said that the authorities will request the government to approve more funds if required.

Last week, Nausheen Hamid, the parliamentary secretary for health, said all citizens would be administered Covid-19 vaccines free of charge, and the drive will begin in the second quarter of 2021.

According to Dr Sultan, the vaccine will be administered to the Pakistani population in stages: frontline healthcare workers will be the first priority; in the second stage, the elderly and at risk-population, in addition to other healthcare workers, will get the vaccine; and the common public will receive the vaccine in the third stage.

Pakistan has witnessed a spike in Covid-19 cases and deaths in recent weeks. The country recorded 3,795 new infections today, the highest single-day tally since July 3.

The total caseload in the country of 220 million people has reached 420,294, including 8,398 related deaths. Pakistan has tested about 5.8 million people for the virus to date.