PM directs to accelerate measures for Covid-19 vaccine roll out

Covid-19 claims 58 lives, infects 1,900 more in 24 hours; SAPM says Pakistan to get coronavirus vaccine by March

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday chaired a meeting on the coronavirus situation in Pakistan and procurement of Covid-19 vaccines.

The cabinet committee, formed on the procurement of Covid-19 vaccines, briefed the prime minister about the recently-approved coronavirus vaccines in the country.

The committee briefed the meeting that the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) had approved two Covid-19 vaccines – China’s Sinopharm and Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use in Pakistan.

The committee told PM Imran that steps are being taken to procure doses of two approved Covid-19 vaccines as soon as possible.

Coronavirus vaccines will be available in the country by the first quarter of the ongoing year, the committee told the premier.

Speaking on the occasion, PM Imran directed the committee to accelerate measures for the early provision of two coronavirus vaccines recently approved by DRAP.

The meeting was attended by NCOC head Asad Umar, SAPM on Health Dr Faisal Sultan, Federal Minister for Industries Hammad Azhar and SAPM on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation Dr Sania Nishtar.

Separately, the Sindh Health Department on Tuesday recommended an allocation of Rs1.5 billion for procurement of anti-coronavirus vaccine.

A spokesperson for the provincial health department said a draft will be prepared to seek the approval of Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah. The provincial government is negotiating the import of Covid-19 vaccines with two private companies.

Meanwhile, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan said that Pakistan will receive its first batch of the coronavirus vaccine directly from manufacturers as well as the global platform of COVAX in the first quarter of the year.

Talking to a private television channel, Dr Faisal Sultan said that the government will be ordering doses from more than one international suppliers within this quarter.

He said that Pakistan will only procure vaccines that have been approved by the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) after evaluation of its quality vis a vis efficacy data. He said that in near future, more vaccines will also be given a go-ahead by the regulatory body.

He said that besides procuring the drug directly, Pakistan will also receive its first tranche of vaccines from COVAX, a World Health Organisation-led initiative that aims to provide Covid-19 vaccines to poor countries, in the first quarter of the year. Pakistan is already putting modalities in place to receive and distribute the vaccine.

“All necessary preparations are being done to start a mass inoculation campaign within Q1,” Dr Sultan said, “This includes infrastructure, framework, training and capacity.” In the first phase, the vaccine will only be administered to healthcare workers dealing directly with coronavirus infected and those over the age of 65 years, he further said.

The national tally of total active coronavirus cases in the country on Tuesday reached 35,485 with 1,900 more people testing positive for the deadly virus and 1,243 people recovering from the disease during the last 24 hours.

Out of 58 Covid-19 deceased patients, 52 were under treatment in hospital and six in their respective homes, according to the latest update issued by the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC).

During the last 24 hours, most of the deaths had occurred in Punjab followed by Sindh. Out of the total 58 deaths during last 24 hours, 37 patients died on ventilators.

The maximum ventilators were occupied in four major areas: 49 per cent in Multan, 32 per cent in Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT), 31 per cent in Peshawar and 38 per cent in Lahore.

The maximum oxygen beds (alternate oxygen providing facility other than ventilator administered as per medical requirement of coronavirus patient) was also occupied in four major areas: 45 per cent in Peshawar, 38 per cent in Multan, 40 per cent in Karachi and 26 per cent in Rawalpindi.

Around 321 ventilators were occupied elsewhere in the country while no coronavirus–affected person was on ventilator in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and Balochistan.

Some 36,513 tests were conducted across the country on Monday, with 10,600 in Sindh, 13,151 in Punjab, 6,075 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), 5,826 in Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT), 259 in Balochistan, 350 in Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), and 252 in AJK. Around 476,471 people have recovered from the disease so far across Pakistan making it a significant count with over 90 per cent recovery ratio of the affected patients.

Since the pandemic outbreak, a total of 523,011 cases have been detected so far, including the deceased, recovered and under treatment Covid-19 patients so far, with 8,654 in AJK, 18,622 in Balochistan, 4,887 in GB, 40,177in ICT, 63,825 in KP, 150,316 in Punjab and 236,530 in Sindh.

About 11,055 deaths have recorded in country since the eruption of the contagion.

Around 3,813 have died in Sindh, and among 20 of them died on Monday. 17 of them died in hospital and three out of the hospital. 4,460 in Punjab have died with 28 deaths in past 24 hours. 25 of them died in the hospital and three out of the hospital.

1,791 in died KP, with eight dying in hospital on Monday, 457 in ICT, 190 in Balochistan, 101 in GB and 243 in AJK, and among two succumbed to the deadly virus in hospital on Monday.

A total of 7,442,084 Covid-19 tests have been conducted so far, while 631 hospitals are equipped with Covid-19 facilities. Some 2,840 coronavirus patients were admitted in hospitals across the country.

It is worth mentioning here that on Monday, DRAP approved the vaccine for emergency use across the country. The decision was taken during meetings held between January 14 and 18 after reviewing vaccine results data submitted by the National Institute of Health (NIH). The development allows federal and provincial governments, and the private sector to import the Chinese vaccine.

In December 2020, Federal Minister for Science and Technology Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said Pakistan will purchase 1.2 million Covid-19 vaccine doses from China’s Sinopharm.

The anti-coronavirus vaccine is developed by China National Biotec Group (CNBG), a Sinopharm subsidiary. On December 30, Sinopharm announced that phase-III trials showed the vaccine was 79 per cent effective.

But the United Arab Emirates, which approved the vaccine for emergency use in December, said interim results of phase-III trials showed 86 per cent effectiveness. The vaccine has been approved for use in China, Jordan, Egypt, Bahrain, and Serbia.

This is the second vaccine approved for emergency use in Pakistan. Last Friday, the DRAP green-lighted use of AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine. Pakistan is currently running phase-III clinical trials for CanSino Biologics’ vaccine candidate, Ad5-nCoV, led by the government-run National Institute of Health. The DRAP had given the approval for urgent-use of the British Covid-19 vaccine.

Pakistan is also running phase-III clinical trials of another Chinese vaccine from CanSino Biologics’, led by the National Institute of Health.

AstraZeneca has been a British-Sweden joint multinational pharma company, which has produced the vaccine in collaboration with Oxford University. The vaccine, approved by the British Medicine and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority, is said to be effective for people of all age groups and could be stored in home refrigerators.

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