Pakistanis pin their hopes on CanSino Biologics’ vaccine

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ISLAMABAD, Jan. 29 : As the world competes fiercely for the early acquisition of the Covid-19 vaccines, Pakistani officials, healthcare workers and common people have pinned their hope on Chinese CanSino Biologics anti-coronavirus vaccines, says a report published by Gwadar Pro on Friday.

Pakistani health experts say that the CanSino vaccine, with promising results during its clinical trials, would be the best option for Pakistanis, having been tested over the indigenous population of the country.

The CanSino vaccine is not the only Chinese vaccine Pakistanis would benefit from, as China announced last week 500,000 doses of the Sinopharm anti-coronavirus vaccine as a gift to Pakistan and according to Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, this life-saving gift will reach Pakistan by January 31, to be followed by 1.1 million more doses by the end of February.

Pakistan’s National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) announced the launch of phase-III clinical trials in the country for CanSino Vaccine in end-September 2020.

Five different hospitals across the country, with the National Institute of Health (NIH) as principal investigator, initiated the trials with a sample size of 18,000.

Talking to China Economic Net (CEN), Dr. Ghazala Parveen, Chief of Biological Production Division NIH said, “So far, we have vaccinated 17,500 volunteers during a double-blind placebo control trial where 50% of people got the vaccine and 50 % got a placebo”. Placebo is a substance with no therapeutic value.

According to her, the trial is moving towards successful completion; during the trial, no severe adverse events have been reported so far. Around 50% of the samples have been sent to Dalhousie University in Canada for analysis. “We are hopeful to get the complete analysis by mid-February,” she said.

Dr Ghazala Parveen said that Pakistan and China have always enjoyed friendly relations and right at the beginning of the pandemic, China provided Pakistan with masks, sanitizers and testing kits etc.

According to her, picking Pakistan for the vaccine trial is another friendly gesture from China; if the results of the trials are positive, it will help to select this vaccine for future use.

“We hope to get a large quantity of CanSino vaccine from China,” Dr Ghazala said, adding, “We also expect technology transfer from China to Pakistan to produce CanSino vaccine in the future”.

Dr Faisal Sultan, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Health Services, Regulations & Coordination, during a recent press conference stated, “If the results are positive, Pakistan is entitled to get 20 million doses of the CanSino vaccine.”

According to Dr Mohsin Ali, CanSino vaccine has superior quality in providing immunity and was the only vaccine being tested on the indigenous population of Pakistan. “The CanSino anti-coronavirus vaccine has no viral genetic component; it only contains the protein molecule of the coronavirus, so it has no potential to cause corona infections,” he told CEN.

Muhammad Usman, a volunteer, who had taken the vaccine on December 3, was in Shifa International Hospital for post-vaccine checkup. He shared his experience with a doctor in the vaccination center. “I had no issue after consuming the vaccine. I think everyone should come and take part in this drive,” he told CEN.

Many volunteers visit the facility to share their experiences with doctors. The hospital administration also remains in touch with volunteers via SMS and phone calls.

Dr Fazal Rabi, Registrar of the Covid-19 ward at Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) Islamabad, said that the second wave of the coronavirus is more deadly than the first one. He lost one of his colleagues some five days back to the virus.

“Now that the Chinese vaccine will be here soon, I’m sure we will be more protected and we will have fewer seriously sick or dead,” Dr Fazal Rabi told CEN. However, he thinks that for frontline workers, 1.1 million doses of vaccines are not enough and more will have to be imported.

As per the government plan, people above the age of 18 would be vaccinated during the vaccination drives, which is some 120 million, thus the government plans to vaccinate 70% of the total population. The frontline healthcare workers will get coronavirus vaccines at the first stage, followed by people over the age of 65; the remaining target population will get the anti-coronavirus vaccine at a later stage.

According to sources in the Ministry of Health, the Chinese company Anhui Zheifi Longkom Biopharmaceuticals Company Limited has also applied for Phase-III clinical trials in Pakistan.