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Is Sindh government politicizing COVID-19 vaccine deployment?

Asad Umar said the federal government was providing all the vaccine doses for the inoculation campaign and the Sindh government would be "standing in lines for the vaccine [saying] that the federal government should give it".

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Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar alleged on Monday that the PPP’s Sindh government was politicizing the coronavirus vaccine deployment despite not having a “single dose” of the vaccine. Umar was addressing a PTI workers’ convention in Shikarpur on development projects in the area when he made the remarks.

The federal minister said the Sindh government was “lying” in press conferences about its procurement and delivery of vaccines because “they don’t have a single vaccine [dose]”, adding that the PPP should be “ashamed” for politicizing an “issue pertaining to people’s health”.

He said the federal government was providing all the vaccine doses for the inoculation campaign and the Sindh government would be “standing in lines for the vaccine [saying] that the federal government should give it”.

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“Tell them [Sindh government] not to worry, we will give them the vaccines because the people of Sindh are as precious to us as people of other areas and Sindh is ours just like the rest of Pakistan is ours.”

Who will be vaccinated in Pakistan?

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 the last 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.

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It is important to 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.