Pakistan to get over 15m doses of Covid vaccine in next two months

The vaccines were procured from Sinopharm, CanSinoBio and Sinovac


Reuters April 30, 2021
PHOTO: REUTERS/FILE

Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan on Thursday said that Pakistan has purchased 13 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine from three Chinese companies and expects to receive them in the next two months,

The vaccines were procured from Sinopharm, CanSinoBio and Sinovac, he told Reuters.

They will supplement around 2.4 million shots from the COVAX programme for poorer nations that are expected to arrive during that period.

"We will be continuously procuring from all available sources across the world," Faisal said. "For now, China remains the primary source for vaccines to meet our present and ongoing needs but all our options are open for effective and safe vaccines."

PM's aide said around 2.4 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, part of the first tranche of 14 million doses under the COVAX programme run by the World Health Organisation and GAVI, would also be arriving and it would likely come from South Korea.

Read more: Pakistan records 5,480 new Covid-19 cases, 151 deaths in 24 hours

Only slightly more than 2 million people have been vaccinated so far in the country of 220 million people, the lowest rate in South Asia.

The COVAX programme has committed 45 million doses to the country up to the end of 2021, and deliveries were meant to start in March. However, India, making the AstraZeneca vaccination, halted supplies due to its own worsening Covid-19 situation.

"The delay in COVAX meant that our expected volume of vaccination could not materialise in February and March," Faisal said. "But ...the drive is picking up speed."

Read more: Sindh sees over 1,000 new Covid-19 cases

Pakistan - scrambling to secure any supplies - started a vaccination drive in February with 1.2 million doses donated by China, and was able to procure over 4 million doses from China in April.

It plans to start giving shots to people aged 40 and over from the first week of May.

Although Pakistan is not seeing the crisis suffered by neighbouring India, cases have been steadily increasing and the death toll of 201 recorded on Tuesday was the highest daily toll since the pandemic began.

With the Muslim festival of Eidul Fitr approaching, when hundreds of thousands of people would normally attend religious gatherings, the country plans to close non-essential business, tourist spots, parks, entertainment venues and public transport for two weeks starting May 6.

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