Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, has cleared the decks for the advance booking of the coronavirus vaccine. According to a senior Pakistani official, PM Imran Khan gave his approval for the pre-booking of coronavirus vaccine, after which concerned authorities have approached two manufacturers.
Parliamentary Secretary for Health Dr Nausheen Hamid confirmed the development, stating that the government has finalised two major pharmaceutical companies to source coronavirus vaccine.
Curiously, the government has not revealed the names of the two pharmaceutical companies from which the country’s coronavirus vaccine will be sourced. It is notable to mention that clinical trials of two vaccines produced by Chinese manufacturers are already underway in Pakistan.
Top Pakistani government adviser supports Chinese vaccines over the likes of Pfizer’s
While the names of the pharmaceutical companies whose coronavirus vaccines have been approved by Pak PM Imran Khan remains a secret, it is pertinent to note that the top government adviser Dr Atta-ur-Rehman had extended his support for the Chinese vaccines over the Pfizer vaccine, hailed across the world for its reported 90 per cent efficacy.
Rehman, the chairman of the Pakistan Prime Minister’s Taskforce on Science and Technology, had last week claimed that Pfizer vaccine was not suitable for Pakistan because of its sub-zero storage requirements.
In an interview with Geo Pakistan, Rehman said, “In my opinion, the vaccine produced by Pfizer is not suitable for Pakistan because it needs to be kept at -80 °C temperature, which is a big problem for a country like Pakistan, where the cold-storage facilities are not as robust as the developed countries.”
In contrast, Rehman backed the two Chinese vaccines, whose clinical trials are underway in Pakistan. He claimed that the coronavirus vaccines produced by the Chinese manufacturers can be transported in “normal temperatures”, which he believes makes it better “suited” for Pakistan and third-world countries.
Rehman’s assertion came a day after vaccine candidate produced by American pharmaceutical corporation Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech was found to be 90 per cent effective in treating coronavirus.
Pakistan’s poor fiscal situation might prompt Islamabad to go with Chinese coronavirus vaccines
However, some analysts believe that Pakistan’s possible rejection of the above two vaccines is grounded partly in its close ties with China and the high costs of procurement of the vaccines produced by the American and the German company. Pakistan is teetering on the edge of a financial collapse, surviving only by the loans granted to it by Beijing. In such a scenario, going for the western vaccines may raise the hackles of China and result in the very likelihood of Chinese retribution against Pakistan, hurtling it towards catastrophic financial disaster.
The economic failure staring at Pakistan is also evident in the appeal made by the Science and Technology minister Fawad Chaudhry, who urged the United Nations to discourage any effort to “monopolise” the Pfizer vaccine and ensure its availability for poor countries as well. He made the appeal while speaking at the World Science Day for Peace and Development event organised by UNESCO.
China, on its part, has treated Pakistan as its laboratory and Pakistanis as guinea pigs, carrying out trials of its under-progress coronavirus vaccines on Pakistani citizens. Beijing, which had endured a severe beating in its reputation in the wake of coronavirus pandemic outbreak, that was reported first in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, has a point to prove to the western world about its technological supremacy in dealing with the pandemic. China would want to demonstrate the efficacy of its produced vaccines by the means of Pakistan.