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ISLAMABAD: Less than even one percent, or 0.27 percent, of the total population of Pakistan may develop immunity against coronavirus through vaccination if the federal government goes ahead with its plan to procure the vaccine from China that had a success rate of only 50.4 percent in Brazil.

Reports from the government circles suggested that initially Pakistan plans to get 1.1 million vaccines from China and talks are under way in this regard. However, keeping in view that China’s anti-Covid-19 vaccine, CoronaVac, had just 50.4 percent success rate in Brazil, it is feared that not more than 554,400 people would actually benefit from the vaccine, which is just 0.27 percent of Pakistan’s 200 million population.

Fifty percent is the minimum approval criteria set by World Health Organisation (WHO) to allow the usage of Covid vaccine in any part of the world.

“Getting this vaccine is not something that’s going to happen in the next few days or weeks. It would probably take months. It would be a gradual process. Let’s not expect that Covid vaccine will arrive in Pakistan within anytime soon and things will change overnight,” said a federal cabinet member, requesting anonymity.

“The entire world is after this vaccine and stocks are very limited. Naturally, you don’t expect developing countries like Pakistan to be one of the first few to procure the vaccine,” the official said.

The government functionary referred to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s statement in a television interview aired Friday night that government’s priority would be to first vaccinate the frontline workers battling coronavirus — medics, paramedical staff and related personnel. Thereafter, he said people of 60 years of age and above would be given preference.

The official said procuring the initial cache of 1.1 million vaccines from China is under consideration but not finalised so far. Pakistan is giving preference to China in the backdrop of China’s expertise in handling Covid-19 and its cordial ties with Pakistan.

“Coronavirus is deadlier than ever in Pakistan. There was the first wave and then there is the second wave deadlier than the first wave and now a new Covid variant is entering Pakistan that is even more worst than the first two waves. So, vaccine manufacturers have to make adjustments accordingly, keeping in view the changes in deadly pandemic and the fresh challenges it has posed,” the source said, adding that no exact estimations can be made about the price of Covid vaccine in Pakistan at this point.

For frontline workers, the vaccine would be free of cost, the source said.

Parliamentary Secretary on National Health Dr Nausheen Hamid said federal government is in talks with different Covid vaccine manufacturers and hopes that there would be a major headway on this front in the next couple of months - by March-end.

“As of now, it cannot be said which country or company we would obtain the vaccine from. Any exact date cannot be given but we are hopeful that next couple of months would be vital. We want to reach out to maximum population to immunise them against Covid but it will take time. Of course, the first preference is the people who are on the frontline in battle against Covid,” she said.

On Brazil’s experience regarding China’s Covid vaccine, she said, as the government is in negotiations with different companies, the government will decide in the best interest of the country after weighing all the pros and cons.

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan recently told the media that government is hopeful to obtain Covid vaccine in the first quarter of the ongoing year.

Pakistan is also hopeful to get 50 million free vaccine doses from an international coalition, he said.

Some anti-Covid vaccines like Pfizer and Oxford-Astra-Zeneca require two shots for best results.

According to experts, the first shot creates immunity against Covid and the second shot strengthens this immunity. However, these vaccines are expensive the prices of which may start from Rs 4,000 per dose once they are available in Pakistan, government officials said. Due to financial limitations, the government would prefer cheaper vaccines that need to be administered one time.

A government official told Business Recorder the provision of 50 million free vaccines by Pakistan from an international coalition Covax under the supervision of United Nations would take time. “It may take several months. Pakistan is not the only country where coronavirus has unleashed havoc. There are other countries and the available stocks are very limited globally. Provision of free vaccine is something that may take months.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021