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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will vaccinate up to 70 million people against the coronavirus by the end of 2021 and the government is making all out efforts to purchase the required volume of Covid-19 vaccine.

This was stated by the Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on National Health Dr Faisal Sultan, here on Monday in a media briefing.

He said the country, at present, was vaccinating nearly 150,000 people daily, while the target was to reach 300,000.

The SAPM said after the implementation of the NIH agreement with Chinese firm to produce single-dose CanSino Bio vaccine locally, the country will become self-sufficient in meeting Covid-19 vaccine needs. Sultan said due to the agreement on the transfer of technology, the National Institute of Health (NIH) will be able to produce three million doses per month, which will significantly reduce the country’s dependence on other countries.

He said China was a strong partner and had gone out of its way in keeping up a supply chain and transferring technology to Pakistan.

“The population of Pakistan which is currently eligible for vaccination stands at 100 million out of 220 million as the vaccines had only been approved for those above 18 years of age.”

The SAPM further informed that for the first half of the year, January to June 2021, the government had received and expected to receive 19.82 million Covid-19 vaccine doses.

Out of 19.82 million, government purchased 91 percent, which clearly shows that the country is not dependent on donations. He said the government of Pakistan has signed deals and placed orders for the purchase of 30 million coronavirus doses, adding that the government will continue to procure more for the rest of the year. “The government has started vaccination for 40 years and above and in this regard, the registration was opened last week.” He said, “Our procurement is a result of proactive efforts. The government initiated the conversation with vaccine manufacturers and GAVI in July 2020 which is well before any vaccine had been fully developed and approved.”

While explaining the government’s efforts to acquire vaccines, he said the Economic Coordination Committee approved $150 million dollars for vaccine procurement on November 20, 2020, while the Cabinet confirmed this on December 1, 2020. He said it was important to note that vaccines did not get approved for use until mid or late December as Pfizer approved on December 11, 2020, AstraZeneca approved on December 30, 2020, while Sinopharm was also in late-stage Phase III trials in December.

The SAPM said manufacturers such as AstraZeneca and Moderna have been unable to meet demand, while some of the world’s largest vaccine manufacturing countries imposed embargos on exporting vaccines until their local demand is met. The aide said government is proud of its accomplishments especially considering the serious global supply issue when some of the richest countries like Australia and Canada had to slow down or halt their vaccine roll-out.

At present, Pakistan did not have the capacity for coronavirus vaccine production and there was no reason to compare Pakistan with coronavirus producing countries like the US and India as they have hugely invested in the sector, he said.

He assured that after recent agreement with global companies by NIH, Pakistan was certainly going to start coronavirus production. He told that some have drawn comparisons to countries in the region with smaller economies like Bhutan with a population little over 750,000 has vaccinated over 60 percent of its population, which means they have vaccinated around 500,000 people. He added on the other hand, Pakistan has a population of 220 million and has vaccinated over 2.5 million people, so there is no comparison between Pakistan and Bhutan.

The premier’s aide said the government will continue to take additional precautions of limiting public space and enforcing SOPs to slow down the spread of the disease.

He expressed the hope that the media will continue to support the government wholeheartedly in the fight against Covid-19.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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