The government has so far spent nearly $250 million to procure Covid vaccines from difference sources, Planning Minister Asad Umar said on Thursday, as the authorities embarked on a mass vaccination campaign under the “whole nation approach”.
Umar, who also heads the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) –the nerve centre of the government’s unified strategy against coronavirus pandemic – indicated in a tweet that the government would allocate more funds for the vaccine procurement in the next fiscal year.
“The acceleration of vaccination drive in the country is being made possible by huge investment by the federal government,” Umar tweeted. “So far the procurement of vaccine has reached nearly quarter of a billion dollars”.
The minister’s tweet came a day after the NCOC, in its two separate sessions on Wednesday, decided to initiate mass vaccination campaign under the “whole of the nation approach” in collaboration with various public and private partners.
The government has set a target of administer vaccine jabs to 70 million people by the end of this year. The NCOC has taken all the federating units on board to enhance the vaccination capacity for which federal government was providing necessary assistance.
So far, the vaccination is voluntary and the government is providing the doses free of charge. Through a phased manner, the authorities have expanded the vaccination campaign to entire adult population of the country.
However, Sindh now makes it mandatory for the provincial government employees to receive the vaccine shots. Chairing a meeting of the Coronavirus Task Force, Chief Minister directed the authorities concerned to stop salaries of employees who were not getting the jabs.
Provincial Education Minister Saeed Ghani later said that the task force also discussed easing of coronavirus restrictions gradually, as the number daily cases of infections appeared to be on the decline in the province.
The government initiated the vaccine campaign in February with the doses donated by China. The frontline health workers were administered the vaccine jabs on a priority basis, before the campaign was expanded to differed age groups in phases, starting from the elderly.
To ensure vaccine for all, the government also purchased millions of doses from China, besides procuring the vaccine through the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) COVAX arrangements. Pakistan has also rolled out its domestic vaccine, developed from raw material provided by China.
Speaking to reporters after inaugurating a vaccine centre in the federal capital, Asad Umar revealed the government’s priorities for administering Pfizer’s Covid-19 mRNA vaccine, which had been procured under the COVAX arrangements.
The first shipment of 106,000 doses of mRNA has reached the country, while authorities are also planning to procure 1-2 million more doses directly from the manufacturer through the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).
“Due to the limited quantity, the Pfizer vaccine would be available only for the intending Hajj pilgrims, Pakistani students studying abroad, or the overseas Pakistanis having work visas,” Asad Umar told reporters.
Death toll tops 21,000
Meanwhile, after remaining under 2,000 for the last two days, the single-day tally of fresh coronavirus infection, crossed the barrier again, as the NCOC reported 2,028 new cases during the last 24 hours in its daily update of the disease, adding that the positivity rate remained at 3.93%.
The NCOC said that 3,889 patients recovered from the disease, reducing the tally of active Covid cases to 53,099. Among them, the update said, 3,927 patients were admitted to various Covid-dedicated facilities. It added 3,630 patients were in critical care, including 430 on ventilators.
According to the NCOC update, 92 people, 78 of them under treatment in hospitals, including 36 on ventilators, died during the past 24 hours, taking the nationwide death toll to 21,022. Most of the deaths, 48, occurred in Punjab, followed by 22 in Sindh.
Since the pandemic outbreak, a total of 926,695 cases were detected. Among them 852,574 people have recovered from the disease so far across Pakistan, making it a significant count with over 90% recovery ratio.
(WITH INPUT FROM APP)