The much awaited vaccine supply under the World Health Organisation’s COVAX programme began, with the first batch, comprising 1.23 million doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca jabs, reaching the country on Saturday, the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) said.
The NCOC, the unified government effort against the pandemic, also said in a statement that out of the 3.5 million SinoVac doses, a consignment of 1 million jabs would reach the country on Sunday (today), while another batch of 1 million doses would arrive between May 13-15.
The government is procuring vaccine to boost the nationwide vaccination campaign, which started in the first week of February. So far, 10.19 million doses of different vaccines – Sinopharm, SinoVac and CanSino – have been procured from China.
Pakistan was supposed to receive 17 million jabs of Oxford's AstraZeneca vaccine under the COVAX program in March, which was halted by a ban on the export of vaccines by neighbouring India. In March, officials had said that the country had placed orders for a total 30 million jabs.
During a media briefing at the vaccine hand-over ceremony, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan welcomed the arrival Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines from the COVAX facility.
“The consignment of 1,238,400 doses of vaccines, which will be followed by another of 1,236,000 in a few days, will support the government of Pakistan's ongoing historic drive to bring the pandemic to an end, Dr Sultan, the de fact health minister, told the ceremony.
“In this unprecedented crisis, we appreciate COVAX and GAVI’s Gavi’s [Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation] contribution to the collective effort to fight Covid-19 in Pakistan. The goal of the COVAX facility is to supply Pakistan with enough doses to vaccinate 20% of the population.”
Dr Sultan urged everyone above the age of 40 to register and get vaccinated so “we can continue our mission to immunise our fellow citizens… Very soon, we will be able to expand the campaign to other age groups and demographics”.
WHO Representative in Pakistan, Dr Palitha Gunarathna Mahipala, United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (Unicef) Representative Aida Girma, GAVI Senior Country Manager for Pakistan Alexa Reynolds and European Union Ambassador to Pakistan Androulla Kaminara, British High Commissioner Dr Christian Turner, US Embassy Chargé d'affaires Angela Aggeler and German Embassy Charge d'Affaires Dr Philipp Deichmann also spoke on the occasion.
The vaccine campaign is one of the key components of the government’s strategy in the fight against the global pandemic, which has seen more than 4,000 cases every day for past few weeks. On Saturday, the NCOC reported 4,109 new cases during the past 24 hours.
However, on the back of 4,957 people making a full recovery from the contagion, the number of active cases dipped a bit to 82,731. Among them, the NCOC said, 5,411 patients were admitted to 638 hospitals across the country, equipped with Covid-19 facilities, including 638 on ventilators.
The NCOC said that 120 people, of them 110 in hospitals, including 56 on ventilators, died during the last 24 hours. It added that the most of the fatalities, 60, occurred in Punjab, followed by 25 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The nationwide death toll stood at 18,797.
As of Saturday, the country’s caseload of the disease, since it broke out in February last year, stood at 854,240, including 752,712 recoveries. A total of 12,149,935 coronavirus tests have been conducted so far, including 48,103 tests on Friday.
According to the NCOC, the maximum ventilators were occupied in four major areas – Lahore 64%, Multan 70%, Gujranwala 62% and Peshawar 46%. The maximum oxygen beds were occupied in four major areas of Gujranwala 59%, Swabi 54%, Peshawar 58% and Multan 62%.
(WITH INPUT FROM APP)