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Tuesday, July 2, 2024

Pakistan ministry proposes $100M for COVID-19 vaccines

Health Ministry in talks with pharmaceutical companies to purchase doses, says official

Pakistan is in talks with pharmaceutical companies for access to COVID-19 vaccines and the Health Ministry has proposed Prime Minister Imran Khan to set aside an initial amount of $100 million to purchase doses, an official said on Thursday.

Dr Asad Hafeez, chairman of the national vaccine committee, told Anadolu Agency that the ministry is negotiating with numerous multinationals to get the vaccine at the earliest. “However, no contract has been finalized yet,” he said.

Read more: Pakistan: 2nd wave of Covid-19 imminent as cases shoot up

Hafeez, who is also the vice chancellor of the federal Health Services Academy in the capital Islamabad, said the amount proposed to earmark has not yet been approved but the premier’s response “was positive.”

He shared that the government has prioritized groups to receive the antigen when it is available: healthcare personnel followed by senior citizens.

While over 100 vaccines to prevent coronavirus are at different stages of development, Pfizer and Moderna have said their vaccines are over 90% effective, and are set to apply for emergency use authorization. China and Russia are already administering doses of their experimental vaccines to a select group of people.

Pakistan has also signed up for the UN’s COVAX Facility, a global initiative aimed at equitable access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines worldwide.

Asked about the logistics for the Pfizer vaccine, which requires an ultra-low temperature — around -75C — for storage, the expert said it could be managed for a targeted segment such as health workers.

Read more: Pakistan, UK partner up to create highly advanced ‘robotic’ COVID-19 testing lab

Pakistan has seen a resurgence of the novel infection in recent weeks. While masks are already mandatory in public places, rallies and indoor marriage ceremonies have been temporarily suspended.

Vaccine not practical for Pakistan?

The vaccine is celebrated across the world for its effectiveness, developing countries like Pakistan are watching the events with helplessness and desperation.

According to Dr Atta ur Rehman, the Chairman of Prime Minister’s Taskforce on Science and Technology Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is not suitable for Pakistan.

He said sounding pessimistic: “We should not think much about this vaccine, instead focus on other vaccines that are being developed and have seen similar results but haven’t been announced with fanfare. They are working quietly.”

Read more: Why Pfizer vaccine is not for Pakistan?

The scientist made these assertions based on solid reasons.

“The problem is that the FDA has not given the approval, the regulatory bodies have to approve and will take two months,” said Dr Rehman.

Another major problem (quite justifiably) is the conditions to be ensured for the vaccine for e.g. a temperature of -75°C is required. Which, given the limited resources of Pakistan cannot be ensured. Moreover, the vaccine costs around 40 USD which is quite expensive given the rupee-dollar parity.

Anadolu with additional input by GVS News Desk