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Saturday, February 4, 2023
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COVID-19 Vaccine: Will politicians, generals and judges be vaccinated on priority basis?

Senator Ayesha Farooq raised questions on who was to be prioritized as the target population, expressing fears that private companies would procure the vaccine, which would reach the rich and influential people and the poor would be left in the lurch. Here is what the government has to say.

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Frontline healthcare professionals, elderly people, and teachers, not politicians, generals, and judges, will be vaccinated on a priority basis, clarified Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan. The Senate was assured on Friday that no elite group would be prioritized for Covid-19 vaccination.

The minister explained that registration for vaccination would be made through an online portal — the National Immunisation Management System (NIMS). The minister also said that Pakistan would receive the first consignment of 500,000 Covid-19 vaccines from China on Sunday.

He said the cabinet had approved agreements worth $1.5 billion with the World Bank and Asian Development Bank for purchase of vaccines, adding that talks were under way with different companies and procurement of the vaccine would start by the end of February.

Earlier, Senator Ayesha Farooq raised questions on who was to be prioritised as target population, expressing fears that private companies would procure the vaccine, which would reach the rich and influential people and the poor would be left in the lurch.

Pakistan has granted permission to use Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine (AZD1222) in emergency situations. The Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) has given the approval for urgent-use of the British COVID-19 vaccine.

It is important note that the government has not announced any date as yet. “Our target is to procure the vaccine in the first quarter of the current year, and we are confident of doing so. But it is quite difficult to say on which date we will acquire the vaccine,” Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan told daily Dawn.

AstraZeneca has been a British-Sweden joint multinational pharma company, which has produced the vaccine in collaboration with Oxford University. The vaccine, approved by the British Medicine and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority, is said to be effective for people of all age groups and could be stored in home refrigerators.

After the approval of the British vaccine from the relevant authority, AZD1222 can be imported in Pakistan. A Karachi-based pharmaceutical company will import the British vaccine, whereas, the price of vaccine for the private sector will be fixed by the government.

AstraZeneca had applied for registration to the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) through a Pakistani pharmaceutical company besides submitting data of the clinical trials of the vaccine.

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It may be noted that Pakistan had announced to buy 1.2 million doses of the corona vaccine from Sinopharm, a state-run Chinese firm, which is developing two COVID-19 vaccines.

The pandemic has already killed 2 million people around the world, sown chaos through the global economy and upended normal life for billions since it began in Wuhan, China, a year ago.

Britain and South Africa in particular are grappling with new variants of the coronavirus, which the government and scientists say are more contagious; many countries have responded by banning passenger flights and blocking trade.

AstraZeneca and other developers have said they are studying the impact of the new variant but expect that their shots will be effective against it.

Regulatory endorsement is a welcome boost for AstraZeneca and the Oxford team, which have been accused of a lack of clarity about the results from late-stage trials.

Pooled results from those trials show it had overall efficacy was 70.4%. Efficacy was 62% for trial participants given two full doses, but 90% for a smaller sub-group given a half, then a full dose.

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Researchers said that the finding of 90% efficacy for the low-dose/high-dose regime needed more investigation. AstraZeneca did not specify which dose regime had been approved.