Thursday Apr 22, 2021
KARACHI: Pakistan has prepared to acquire at least 100,000 doses of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine of Pfizer BioNTech through COVAX by June this year, The News reported on Thursday.
For preparation beforehand, the country has already procured and installed ultra cold chain (UCC) refrigerators in Islamabad and all the federating units for storage of the vaccine, officials said.
Confirming the development, an official of the National Health Services, Regulations, and Coordination said: “COVAX has assured us of providing at least 100,000 doses of mRNA vaccine of Pfizer BioNTech by June this year. On their assurance, we have acquired and installed 23 UCC refrigerators throughout Pakistan."
The double-dose Pfizer vaccine has a shelf life of six months when stored at minus-75C (minus-103F), which represents a logistical challenge in many countries as it requires specialised freezers.
However, officials in Pakistan said they had already taken care of the storage issue by installing 23 UCC freezers at 16 locations across Pakistan.
The official said with the financial assistance from Asian Development Bank (ADB) available with the UNICEF, Pakistan has procured 23 UCC refrigerators.
According to NHS officials, eight UCC refrigerators have been installed at EPI, NIH Islamabad, as well as the Tarlai Rural Health Centre.
Read more: NIH planning to develop single-dose coronavirus vaccine in Pakistan
One refrigerator is installed at the district health authority office in Rawalpindi, two at the principal EPI headquarter in Karachi, one at the EPI office in Hyderabad and one at the EPI headquarter in Quetta.
Similarly, one UCC refrigerator each has been installed at Lahore, Faisalabad, Multan and Gujranwala, and Gilgit.
The official noted that two UCC refrigerators have been installed in Mirpur Azad Kashmir and Muzaffarabad, while three UCC refrigerators have been installed in Peshawar, Abbottabad, and Swat.
Apart from the installation of refrigerators, specialised and trained teams had been hired to install the sophisticated equipment to ensure that precious vaccines and biological products remain safe in them.
According to NHS officials, in addition to 100,000 doses of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine, COVAX has also assured that Pakistan would be provided 2.5 million doses of AstraZeneca’s Covishield vaccine from a "non-Indian” source after Indian authorities diverted the vaccine supplies to meet domestic needs.
“COVAX has further assured to provide us 2.5 million doses of AstraZeneca by May-June from a non-Indian source," the official said.
"We are quite satisfied with the assurance and are planning to open the registration of all the adults in the country after Eid-ul-Fitr,” the official said, adding that registration of healthcare workers has also re-started till April 30, 2021, to help those who have not been vaccinated yet.