BEIJING/ISLAMABAD: The Chinese government on Friday directed its pharmaceutical companies to accelerate the provision of coronavirus vaccination to Islamabad a day after Foreign Minister Wang Yi assured his Pakistan counterpart, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, of the “gift” of half a million shots.
“In order to support our brothers and sisters in Pakistan, the Chinese government has decided to provide a batch of vaccines as aid and will actively coordinate with the relevant Chinese enterprise to speed up [the] export of vaccines to Pakistan,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said in response to a question from Associated Press of Pakistan during a press briefing Friday.
The confirmation comes a day after Qureshi held a telephonic conversation with Yi to discuss “Pakistan’s requirements,” after Prime Minister Imran Khan had directed him to increase interaction with Beijing “considering the sensitivity of the [coronavirus] situation” at home.
“I also informed [Yi] that our needs are far greater than [those 0.5 million doses] … we need 1.1 million doses [for frontline workers] in the first phase,” he said while speaking to reporters. At this, Yi assured him this could also be accomplished by the end of February, Qureshi had added.
“Pakistan is an all-weather strategic partnership with China,” Chunying said, adding: “We have the tradition of mutual assistance. And we always lend each other firm support when in need.”
However, she did not confirm the number of vaccine doses that China would provide, nor the name of the “relevant” Chinese company.
“Since the outbreak, China and Pakistan have worked together to go through the difficulties in order to support our brothers and sisters in Pakistan,” she added.
Chunying said as Yi mentioned, the China-Pakistan friendship is solid as a stone, and “it is our precious strategic asset and we will continue to carry out such momentum.”
In December, the federal cabinet approved $250 million in funding to buy coronavirus vaccines, initially to cover the most vulnerable 5 per cent of the population, including the frontline health workers.
On December 30, a special cabinet committee for procurement of Covid-19 vaccine, chaired by Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar, decided to procure 1.1 million doses of vaccine from state-owned Sinopharm.
The vaccine is able to be stored at two to eight degrees Celsius, or a normal refrigeration temperature.
The jab has already been approved in the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain and is slated for use next in Morocco.
Meanwhile, the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) announced to have opened registrations for frontline healthcare workers who are set to receive the first doses of the vaccine.
Staff in both public and private health facilities will be vaccinated, NCOC announced on its website and gave an elaborate definition for who qualified as a healthcare worker.
Under vaccine protocol, the vaccination of frontline healthcare workers will be followed by remaining healthcare workers and people over 65 in the second phase, and the general public in the third phase.
Last week, Dr. Faisal Sultan, state minister for health, said Pakistan has been engaging with a number of vaccine makers, adding the country could get “in the range of tens of millions” of vaccine doses under an agreement with CanSino.
The company’s Ad5-nCoV coronavirus candidate is nearing completion of Phase III clinical trials in Pakistan. The preliminary results of the CanSino vaccine may come in by mid-February, Dr Sultan had said.
In addition to Sinopharm, DRAP has also approved the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for emergency use.