Sunday, March 28, 2021

Pakistan's AstraZeneca vaccine supply delayed as India diverts supplies

As coronavirus cases in India grow, the Serum Institute of India (SII) diverts supplies of AstraZeneca doses to meet domestic demand

A health official takes a swab sample from a man in Karachi to test for Covid-19. (Photo: AFP)
  • Serum Institute of India (SII) diverts AstraZeneca supply after cases of the virus grow in India
  • Pakistan's play has been offset due to this delay, says NHS official
  • Pakistan has, so far, managed to only vaccinate 0.25% of its population

Pakistan may not receive the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine doses till May or even later as India has diverted the supplies to meet its domestic needs, with the third wave of the virus leading to a surge in coronavirus cases across the world.

The Serum Institute of India (SII) — which is supplying doses of the vaccine to the COVAX programme — diverted its supplies to meet India's needs, said officials to The News.

“Due to a surge [in coronavirus cases], their (Indians) indigenous demand went up resulting in delayed export authorization for COVAX. It has affected Pakistan along with many other countries which were scheduled to receive supplies during March.

"Pakistan's plan was certainly offset due to this unforeseen delay,” an official of the National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination (NHS, R&C) told The News.

Pakistan has so far only managed to vaccinate a meagre half a million people from the Chinese vaccine Sinopharm. China donated 1.5mn doses of the vaccine to Pakistan in three shipments, as the country struggles to battle the rising number of coronavirus cases.

The National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) has raised alarm over the rising number of cases with Asad Umar hinting at more stringent measures in the coming days if people do not observe coronavirus SOPs.

The health authorities said, following a delay in the arrival of AstraZeneca’s Covishield through COVAX, that they have ordered one million doses of Sinopharm vaccine from China which is due to arrive in Pakistan on Tuesday, March 30 while at least 60,000 doses of China’s single dose vaccine, Convidecia, are also expected to reach Pakistan on the same night.

“For COVAX, the latest communication hints at the likelihood of supply to resume from May onwards. But we have urgently procured large supplies (from China) during March – April”, the NHS official said, adding that soon vaccination of people above 50 years will commence with the Chinese vaccines.

Dr Faisal Sultan had earlier confirmed that Pakistan was in contact with AstraZeneca over the delay in the supply of the coronavirus vaccines.

“We are in regular communication with Covax. There is not yet any confirmed date of delivery for them”, Dr Faisal Sultan said.

Meanwhile, a private company has also imported the single dose Chinese vaccine. The first shipment of 10,000 doses of single-dose Chinese vaccine Convidecia, developed by the CanSino Biologics Inc, will reach Karachi on Monday, March 29, 2021 being imported by a private firm AJM Pharma Ltd," Hasan Abbas Zaheer, technical advisor of the AJM Pharma (pvt) Limited, told The News on Saturday.