Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan has said that Pakistan will step up vaccination to turn the tide against Covid-19, saying that 0.8 million doses have already been administered in the country.
Talking to the media in Islamabad on Wednesday, he said that the vaccines are part of the strategy against coronavirus which also included the use of face masks and social distancing.
"The third wave [of Covid-19] is challenging and it has already reached the intensity seen during the first wave especially in K-P, AJK and Punjab," the PM's aide said, urging the masses to adhere to standard operating procedures (SOPs) laid down by the government.
He said that Pakistan has procured two different kinds of vaccines — Sinopharm and CanSino. "The trials of the CanSino vaccine were done in Pakistan and based on the statistical results of the trial, we got the vaccine registered. We hope to procure this vaccine in hundreds of thousands and even millions in the coming weeks and months."
He said that half a million doses of the Sinopharm vaccine were received today while an additional 0.5m doses are scheduled to arrive on Thursday. "In April, May and June, we will purchase millions of doses of these vaccines."
While talking about the vaccination drive in the country, Dr Faisal said that the registration of people over the age of 50 has been opened. "Those who are above 70 can visit any vaccine centre and get the vaccine upon presentation of their CNIC."
He said that Pakistan already has a distribution system in the form of Expanded Immunisation Programme (EPI) under which the vaccines are being shared with provinces. "We allocate the vaccines based on the number of citizens in each region. There is also an online registration system in place on which people can send their CNIC number after which they are queued for the vaccine programme through a return SMS."
Talking about the CanSino vaccine, Dr Faisal said that it was better in comparison to some other vaccines as it requires only a single dose. "It [CanSino] is particularly useful for the elderly as they do not have to come multiple times. Also, it is also effective against serious disease," he added.
Speaking about the potential side effects of the vaccines, he said that some cases of reactions can be reported since the vaccines are given to millions of people, adding that at times people have some pre-existing medical condition. "We had good trials and we are also monitoring any reactions."
The PM's aide said that the demand for the vaccines is higher than the supply due to which the arrival of Astrazenaca is delayed. "In April, May and June, millions of more vaccines are to be procured as we have over 100 million people over the age of 18."
He further said that the government has plans for the continued purchase of Sinopharm and CanSino vaccines from China in the coming weeks and months.