Thursday Apr 22 2021
Web Desk

500,000 SinoVac coronavirus vaccine doses arrive in Pakistan

Web Desk
A nurse holds a dose of China's CoronaVac, a potential vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) before administering it to a volunteer at Emilio Ribas Institute in Sao Paulo, Brazil July 30, 2020. Picture taken July 30, 2020. — Reuters/File

  • NCOC says vaccine doses procured through payment.
  • Vaccine doses manufactured by Chinese-based company SinoVac. 
  • DRAP had authorised emergency use of the vaccine earlier this month.

The National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) said Thursday a Pakistan Air Force plane carrying 0.5 million Chinese-based company SinoVac's vaccine doses had landed at the Nur Khan Airbase in Islamabad.

In a statement, the NCOC said Pakistan had paid for the vaccine doses, clarifying that it was not via donation from China.

The Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP), earlier this month, had granted emergency authorisation to the SinoVac's vaccine —CoronaVac.

This was the fifth coronavirus vaccine and the third Chinese vaccine to be used in Pakistan. Earlier, Pakistan had granted the authorisation to China’s two-dose Sinopharm and single-dose Convidecia vaccine developed by the Cansino Biologicals. UK’s AstraZeneca and Russian Sputnik V vaccines have also been approved by the DRAP.

The CoronaVac vaccine, despite its low efficacy rate, was allowed by the health authorities to counter the third wave of the pandemic in Pakistan.

In this regard, an official of the Drug Regulatory Authority said: “DRAP’s registration board in its 304th meeting ... gave Emergency Use Authorisation (EUA) to CoronaVac vaccine, developed by the Sinovac Life Sciences Company, based in Beijing, China."

Meanwhile, 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 had reported.

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 had 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."

Pakistan to receive 2.5 million doses of AstraZeneca’s Covishield vaccine

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.

Which vaccines are being used currently

Two Chinese and one Russian vaccine are being used in the public and private sectors, officials had said earlier this month.

Pakistan is expecting the AstraZeneca vaccine under the COVAX programme but due to supply constraints, the country has not received its share of doses as yet.

The DRAP official further said an expert committee had recommended emergency use authorisation for the CoronaVac vaccine, although its data was not published and overall efficacy was around 56%.

“But in Turkey and Indonesia, the efficacy of CoronaVac has been found to be 91.25% and 85.3% respectively. Besides, it is already being used in China, Turkey, Indonesia, Brazil, and some Middle Eastern countries," the DRAP official added.