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Pakistan in talks with China, Russia to get vaccines

Islamabad likely to procure doses from more than one source, says top health official

Pakistani health authorities are negotiating with China and Russia, among others, to procure coronavirus vaccines, an official said on Monday.

“We are in talks with China, Russia and some other countries for procurement of the [COVID-19] vaccine after narrowing down our priority list,” Faisal Sultan, special assistant to the prime minister on health, told Anadolu Agency.

The vaccine, he said, would be available in Pakistan sometime between January and March next year, and administered to health workers and senior citizens in the first phase.

“There is nothing final yet; however, I can tell you that we have to rely on more than one source,” the adviser said. “We will procure the vaccine only after its efficacy and safety is proven.”

While Russia has started the distribution of its Sputnik V COVID-19 shot nationwide, China is testing its vaccines in many countries, and supply deals are being signed.

Other vaccines seeking emergency use authorization are produced by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Oxford-AstraZeneca.

Islamabad has already earmarked an initial sum of $150 million to purchases the doses.

Read more: Are Pakistan’s health systems prepared for a COVID-19 vaccine?

Last week, Nausheen Hamid, Pakistan’s parliamentary secretary for health, said all citizens would be administered COVID-19 vaccines free of charge, and the drive will begin in the second quarter of 2021.

Pakistan has witnessed a spike in COVID-19 cases and deaths in recent weeks. The South Asian country recorded 3,795 new infections on Monday, the highest single-day tally since July 3.

The total caseload in the country of 220 million people has reached 420,294, including 8,398 related deaths. Pakistan has tested about 5.8 million people for the virus to date.

Read more: Interior Minister Ijaz Shah administered first dose of trial COVID-19 vaccine

Some patients being treated for the novel virus are said to have died of oxygen shortage at a government hospital in the city of Peshawar on Dec. 5. The provincial health minister has ordered an inquiry into the incident.

Anadolu with additional input by GVS News Desk