Saturday Jan 30 2021
Web Desk

'Good news': Asad Umar says Pakistan can expect 17 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine this year

Web Desk
Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar. — Reuters/File
  • NCOC chief Asad Umar says COVAX has indicated supply of 17 million doses of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine for Pakistan
  • Six million of the total 17 million doses will be received by March, with delivery starting in February
  • The efficacy of the British firm's vaccine was shown by interim data to be 70.4%

The chief of the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), Asad Umar, on Saturday broke the good news that COVAX has indicated a supply of up to 17 million doses of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine for Pakistan in the first half of 2021.

"Good news on COVID vaccine front. Received a letter from COVAX of [an] indicative supply of up to 17 million doses of AstraZeneca in 1st half 2021," Umar wrote on Twitter.

According to the planning minister, six million of the total 17 million doses will be received by March with delivery starting in February. He did not specify any dates.

"We signed with COVAX nearly eight months back to ensure availability," he added.

Pakistan to get first coronavirus vaccine doses 'within weeks': Dr Faisal Sultan

Of the 190 participating economies, Pakistan is among the 92 that qualify for the World Health Organization’s (WHO) COVAX initiative that ensures “rapid and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for all countries, regardless of income level”.

Umar's announcement comes as a special plane is ready to bring the first batch of the coronavirus vaccines that China has gifted to Pakistan. It is speculated that the vaccine to arrive tomorrow (Sunday) will be the one made by Sinopharm.

Special plane to bring first coronavirus vaccine batch from China tomorrow, NCOC told

Earlier this month, the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) gave authorisation for both — the Chinese-manufactured Sinopharm, and the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

How the AstraZeneca vaccine works

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is made from a weakened version of a common cold virus, known as adenovirus, from chimpanzees, and has been modified to look more like the coronavirus — although it cannot cause the illness.

When the vaccine is injected into a human body, it prompts the immune system to make antibodies and trains it to attack any coronavirus infection. Interim data showed that the vaccine’s efficacy in preventing symptomatic infections was 70.4%.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is more suitable for developing countries as it can be stored in a normal fridge for six months, making it much easier to distribute. It is also cheaper to make.

The vaccine was first approved for emergency use by the United Kingdom government.

Pakistan's coronavirus situation

During the last 24 hours, 2,179 COVID-19 cases were reported across Pakistan, according to data issued by NCOC.

In this period, 65 people died from the disease, with most deaths occurring in Punjab (35) followed by Sindh (17).

Out of the 65 deaths, 36 died on ventilators.

The country has so far reported 543,214 cases and 11,623 deaths.