ISLAMABAD: Pakistan plans to administer the Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccines to its elderly population, a health official said.
The Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) has till now granted emergency validation to the Chinese-made Sinopharm vaccine and the AstraZeneca vaccine developed by Oxford University.
Pfizer will now also be filing for emergency use authorisation in Pakistan later this month, a senior health official told a private television channel on condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to speak to the press.
“Pfizer has not applied as yet [for approval],” he explained, “They [the company] has conveyed that they are preparing a dossier for submission by the end of February.”
Once the pharmaceutical company submits its proposal, the drug regulatory authority will then decide if it is safe to roll out the jab.
On February 2, Pakistan officially kicked off its coronavirus inoculation campaign nationwide, after China gifted the country 500,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine. The tranche will be used to vaccinate the 500,000 healthcare workers in the country who are directly in contact with the Covid-19 infected.
Since then, Pakistan has immunised 10,000 healthcare workers, the health official said.
Besides the delivery from China, Pakistan is also on the list to receive 17,160,000 doses through the global COVAX platform, which is expected to buy in bulk the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine and a smaller quantity of Pfizer as well.
The delivery is expected at the end of February, provided that the World Health Organisation (WHO) grants Emergency Use Listing (EUL) to AstraZeneca, a press release from WHO on Wednesday stated. The WHO has already given the go-ahead to the Pfizer vaccine.
Pakistan plans to use both the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccine on its over 60-years-old population, who will be vaccinated in the second phase of its drive after covering healthcare professionals, the health official explained.
“For over 60 years, the AstraZeneca will arrive at the end February,” he said, “And small quantities of Pfizer too.” The two vaccines will be administered to the elderly population provided “the [drugs] meet the requirements of WHO Emergency Use Authorisation or satisfy DRAP quality parameters,” the official added.
The coronavirus pandemic has claimed 53 more lives in the country during the past 24 hours, taking the overall death toll to 11,886, said the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) on Friday.
According to the latest statistics of the NCOC, 1,302 new infections were reported, surging the national tally of cases to 551,842. Another 1,684 patients recovered from the virus in a day, and so far 507,502 people have recovered from the deadly disease.
A total of 1,903 patients were stated to be in critical condition. The total count of active cases is 33,184. A total of 37,020 tests were conducted across the country on Thursday, while 8,122,447 samples have been tested so far.
So far Sindh province has reported 249,498 cases of the coronavirus. Around 159,705 cases have been reported in Punjab, 68,004 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), 18,844 in Balochistan, 41,734 Covid-19 cases in Islamabad and 9,144, 4,913 cases of the deadly virus have been reported in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), respectively.
Sindh reported at least 545 new coronavirus cases during the past 24 hours, taking the tally to 250,042. According to Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, seven more patients succumbed to the deadly virus as the death toll surged to 4,066. He further said that 338 patients recovered from the deadly disease, taking the total to 226,752.
At least 394 new coronavirus cases were recorded in Punjab during the past 24 hours, taking the provincial tally to 159,705. According to the Punjab Primary and Secondary Health Care Department, at least 19 more patients succumbed to the pandemic as the total reached 4,840. The department added that at least 145,681 patients had recovered from the deadly virus as of yet.
Meanwhile, Europe and pharma groups must work together to speed up Covid-19 vaccinations, the head of the European branch of the World Health Organization said Friday, expressing concern about the effectiveness of vaccines on virus variants.
“We need to join up to speed up vaccinations,” Europe WHO Director Hans Kluge said, as Europe bids to overcome a slow start to its vaccination campaign amid tensions between Brussels and vaccine manufacturers.
“Otherwise competing pharmaceutical companies (must) join efforts to drastically increase production capacity … that’s what we need,” Kluge said.
In the European Union (EU), just 2.5 per cent of the population has received a first vaccine dose, though announcements by several laboratories of increased vaccine deliveries have raised hopes of an acceleration.
Asked whether the vaccines available since December would be effective against new virus variants, Kluge replied: “That’s the big question. I’m concerned.”
“We have to be prepared” for new problematic mutations of the virus, he warned, calling on countries to expand their genomic sequencing capacity. “It’s a cruel reminder that the virus still has the upper hand on the human being.”