A resolution urging the private sector to either offer Covid-19 vaccine free of charge or on reduced price was passed in the Senate on Monday with a majority vote.
Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) Senator Kamran Murtaza presented the resolution in the house that stated that citizens of all countries were either being vaccinated for free or at a fixed rate of Rs1,500. On the other hand, the Senator observed, the price of coronavirus vaccine has been fixed at Rs8,400 in Pakistan.
“The government has failed to vaccinate the people,” the JUI lawmaker lamented, adding that, “Vaccination should either be free or prices should be reduced.”
Responding to the resolution, Leader of the House Dr Shahzad Waseem said the virus was not a political issue and urged political parties to restrain from making it one.
“This is not a resolution but a baseless charge-sheet against the government,” Waseem said, adding that the national narrative must be a reflection of the national interest.
He added that neither politics of protest nor any other threat can falter Prime Minster Imran Khan from his mission.
Senator Wasim also invited the opposition parties to work together on reforms, and hoped the opposition would play a positive role in the house. The senator observed that matters related to Covid-19 were not limited to the government or opposition, but were a matter of survival of the entire country.
However, criticising the incumbent government’s Covid response, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Senator Sherry Rehman said that Covid-19 vaccine is being provided for free world over but price has been fixed here.
She further questioned the government about the number of vaccines it has acquired from other nations.
The decision to either reduce the price of coronavirus vaccine or to provide free vaccination was approved by a majority vote.
Thousands of Pakistanis rushed to get inoculated in the first round of commercial sales of Covid-19 vaccines that began over the weekend, with vaccination sites in Karachi saying on Sunday, April 4, that they had already sold out.
While the private sale of vaccines has begun, the government and importers are still locked in a pricing dispute.
The first round saw the commercial sale of the two-shot Russian Sputnik V to the general public for about 12,000 Pakistani rupees ($80) for a pack of two doses.
On March 21, the federal cabinet decided to cap maximum retail price of the Russian and Chinese Covid vaccine injections, being imported by the private sector amid a sharp increase in coronavirus cases and in the absence of a wider government-funded vaccination programme.
The cabinet approval came through a circulation of the health ministry summary. It came on the day when PM Imran was tested positive for Covid-19, said Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health (SAPM) Dr Faisal Sultan.
The government has fixed the maximum sale price of Sputnik V Russian vaccine at Rs8,449 for two doses and China’s Convidecia at Rs4,225 per injection, showed the summary of the national health services and regulations ministry.
The Drug Pricing Committee of the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) had proposed the price cap for two vaccines – Sputnik V’s GAM-Covid-Vac solution, manufactured by the FSBI NF Gamalaya RCEM of the Russian health ministry and Convidecia vaccine, manufactured by CanSino Biologics Inc.