In a major development, Pakistani authorities have informed that they have no plans to purchase Coronavirus vaccines, at least for the year 2021. The cash-strapped country is willing to rely upon herd immunity and donated vaccines from China and Gavi to contain the pandemic.
The matter came to light during the briefing of the Pakistani National Health Service (NHS) before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Thursday (March 4). NHS Secretary Amir Ashraf Khawaja said that a Chinese company by the name of Sinopharm has promised to donate 1 million Coronavirus doses to Pakistan.
He informed that about 5 lac doses have already been handed over to the government and that a total of 2.75 lac people have been vaccinated. Although Pakistan has a population of 22.5 crores, it is planning to vaccinate only 7 crore people by the end of this year. The Imran Khan-led-government will also receive 16 million Made-in-India Coronavirus vaccines through the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (Gavi) programme.
Pakistan’s vaccination programme for the elderly delayed
On being asked by PAC whether the Pakistani government has been waiting for free vaccines, NHS Secretary Amir Ashraf Khawaja replied, “We wouldn’t need to purchase much.” He said that the Made-in-India Coronavirus vaccines will reach Pakistan, starting from March itself. Pakistan’s over-reliance on donated vaccines is proving costly as the inoculation programme for the elderly that was scheduled from March 5 has been kept on hold due to a delay in receiving the consignment of vaccines.
Private companies in Pakistan not interested in importing Coronavirus vaccines
Pakistan claimed that a survey, dating back to June last year, found that 15% of the population had ‘developed’ antibodies against the Coronavirus. As such, the authorities have decided to not vaccinate them. NHS, which is dependent on friendly nations such as China, informed that a Chinese company had completed the third phase of the trial for CanSino (Chinese vaccine) in Pakistan, with 85% efficacy.
NHS Secretary also informed that despite the offer made by the Pakistani government to private companies to buy the vaccine, no company has come forward so far. The Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan has received the proposal of 3 companies to import vaccines from abroad. However, their proposals were cancelled due to a lack of details and specifications. As of March 9, Pakistan has reported 16,349 active cases and 54 new fatalities.