- Shipment to arrive as hundreds of overseas Pakistanis demand vaccines approved by Gulf, other countries
Karachi: The United States has announced that it will be shipping 2.5 million doses of the Moderna vaccine to Pakistan.
This was announced by White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Monday.
"Thanks to the President’s commitment to playing a leading role in ending the pandemic everywhere, 2 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine will begin to ship to Peru from the United States, and 2.5 million doses of the Moderna vaccine will ship to Pakistan," read a press briefing statement by Press Secretary Psaki.
The shipment of the Moderna vaccine to Pakistan comes amid protest by overseas Pakistanis who are stuck in the country as they have not been inoculated with vaccines approved by several countries.
Saudi Arabia and some other countries in the Middle East are not accepting certificates of the Chinese-manufactured Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccine.
Saudi Arabia has updated its travel restrictions, which includes requirements to take Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson in order to enter the kingdom, leaving out Sinopharm and Sinovac despite it being approved by the World Health Organization.
In Pakistan, most of the vaccines being administered are Chinese, preventing expats from leaving for their workplaces abroad. Overseas Pakistanis have been demanding that they should only be administered the Pfizer vaccine or the AstraZeneca.
On Monday, hundreds of desperate people overwhelmed a government-run coronavirus vaccination centre in the capital.
Most of those clamouring to be vaccinated were Pakistanis who work overseas, mainly in the Gulf, who need a shot of the hard-to-find AstraZeneca vaccine to travel there.
"We have a very limited capacity here, but for the past few days the centre has been overwhelmed by those wanting to travel abroad," senior police official Farooq Amjad Buttar told AFP.
Pakistan has so far fully or partially vaccinated nearly 12 million people from a population of 220 million, and mostly with the Chinese Sinopharm or Sinovac jabs.
Millions of Pakistanis work abroad, and their remittances are a key part of Pakistan's economy and its foreign currency reserves.
"It was not a protest or an attack," Buttar said, downplaying the incident in which no one was injured.
Muhammad Shehzad, travelled from Mardan to Islamabad in the hope of getting an AstraZeneca shot. "Saudi officials say they will let us enter only after getting vaccinated," he said
"I got a Chinese vaccine, but they are saying they will accept American vaccines only," Shehzad added.