Private sector allowed to import Covid vaccine

Health experts say people might be able to buy doses before the government rollout


Rizwan Shehzad   December 14, 2020
Photo: Anadolu Agency

ISLAMABAD:

The Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination on Sunday revealed that the government had allowed the private sector to purchase the coronavirus vaccine for the people who can pay through the nose.

“Private sector has also been given permission by government to cater for that segment of society which can afford,” the official statement of the health ministry read suggesting that the sought after Covid-19 vaccine will make its way on to the private sector as well.

Health experts said that enabling the private sector to acquire the vaccine also indicated that people might be able to buy doses before the government rollout.

Meanwhile, while talking to The Express Tribune, Parliamentary Secretary on National Health Services (NHS) Dr Nausheen Hamid said that the government had secured vaccine for a population of 45 million people through GAVI COVAX facility and had taken urgent measures for the purchase of additional vaccine for 10 million people for which, the cabinet had approved US$150 million.

The parliamentary secretary said that the government was in touch with the authorities concerned in UK, USA, China and Russia and had been analysing the availability, affordability and efficacy of the vaccine, which is currently in the last phases of trial.

“Negotiations under a confidential declaration agreement, with vaccine manufacturers are in final stages, who are undergoing phase III trials, are publishing their efficacy data and are in process of getting emergency authorisation approvals from respective regulators,” the ministry’s official statement read.

Dr Nausheen refuted claim made by an English daily that the government had allocated additional $100 million for vaccine purchase, saying the government was trying to generate the additional amount and was also in touch with international organisations.

“Additional funds will also be arranged by government as per requirements,” she said. The health ministry’s statement maintained that the vaccines were expected to arrive by the end of the first and beginning of second quarter of 2021, in order to administer it to healthcare workers and prioritised population.

Dr Nausheen also wondered why the aforementioned report quoted her saying that “GAVI has also pledged to provide vaccine for 20pc population which comes to 450 million people”.

“Even our population is not 450 million,” she said, suggesting it must have been a typo and the paper would fix it.

Meanwhile, deployment plan is being finalised for smooth implementation with respective provincial governments keeping in view all the safety parameters and other technical guidelines based on evidence available to date.

COVAX facility also offers support in the delivery and supply chain management of vaccines through alternative means, including existing mechanisms. Dr Nausheen said that COVAX – the global collaboration platform to accelerate the development, production, and equitable access to Covid19 tests, treatments, and vaccines – aimed to provide enough doses to vaccinate up to 20% of country’s population in the longer term.

The statement said that usually the vaccine trials take long (7-8 years), however, under the facility the global experts had reduced timelines to accelerate the Covid-19 vaccine development and manufacturing without compromising safety and efficacy.

Earlier, the federal cabinet had approved allocating $150 million to procure coronavirus vaccine and reduced the cost of 100mg injections of Remdesivir needed to treat the virus from Rs9,244 to Rs5,680.

The cabinet meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan, had also decided that health workers fighting on the frontline and people over 65 years of age would be vaccinated in the first phase. In the cabinet meeting, the premier had directed that timely procurement and availability of the coronavirus vaccine “must be ensured at all cost”.


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