Pakistan sets aside $100mn to buy Covid vaccine

Islamabad:  Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has approved a $100 million allocation and allowed advance payment for procurement of Covid-19 vaccine at the earliest.

It has also been decided that senior citizens, health practitioners and people suffering from chronic diseases will be prioritised for the vaccine that will be available in limited numbers during the ongoing winter season, Dawn news reported.

“As we speak no company has announced the cost of vaccine. Moreover, not a single company has got the approval to sell the vaccine as the clinical trial data is limited. Although international firms — Pfizer and BioNTech — have announced that the phase-III clinical trials of their vaccines had shown 90 per cent efficacy in preventing the disease among those who have not contracted the virus, but they are in the process of compiling the data. Once data will be completed they will submit it with United States Food and Drugs Authority and with similar regulatory authority of the European Union. It may take another four weeks,” said Vice Chancellor of the Health Services Academy (HSA) and Chairman of the National Vaccine Committee Dr Asad Hafeez.

“Companies will get the emergency use or transit permission for use of vaccine and after one year they may get full approval to sell the vaccine. However, there will be no difference for the general public if the vaccine is sold under transit or full permission. The Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) has been interacting and negotiating with half a dozen multinational companies to get the vaccine at the earliest,” he said.

In reply to a question, Dr Hafeez said the government was very close to finalise the process for the procurement of the vaccine. However, he said, it would take a few more months to get the vaccine.

An official of the health ministry requesting anonymity said that it was not possible to estimate the cost of the vaccine at the moment, as there were no mRNA (messenger RNA) vaccines in the world. “We should [also] not forget that commercial companies are manufacturing the vaccine and, despite their announcement that the vaccine will be provided at affordable rates, we should not expect that it will be available for almost free,” he said.

Meanwhile, Parliamentary Secretary on NHS Nausheen Hamid said a number of companies claimed to have been preparing vaccine for the novel coronavirus.

“We have shortlisted two companies and soon advance payment will be deposited. Moreover, healthcare workers and senior citizens will be prioritised for the vaccine,” she said.