ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will begin receiving shipments of China’s CanSino Biologics Covid-19 vaccine this week for commercial sale, an official at the company’s local partner told Reuters on Monday.
“We expect the first 10,000 doses to come on March 25, and 100,000 next month and 200,000 the month after,” Hassan Abbas, an official of AJ Pharma, said.
Pakistan, one of the first countries in the world to allow commercial imports of Covid-19 vaccines, has already received a batch of Russia’s Sputnik vaccine for commercial sale.
Drug Regulation Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) had approved the vaccine for emergency use in February, making Pakistan the second country to approve the drug after Mexico.
The vaccine showed 65.7 percent efficacy in preventing symptomatic cases and a 90.98 percent success rate in stopping the severe disease in an interim analysis of global trials, Minister of State for Health Dr Faisal Sultan said at the time.
The CanSinoBIO vaccine was tested in Pakistan, Mexico, Russia, Argentina and Chile, according to clinical trial registration data, and the company has supply deals with some of those countries, including Mexico.
“The initial set of vaccines will come in vials already filled, but we hope in the future to get them in the form of concentrates from CanSino and do the filling here in Pakistan,” Abbas had told Reuters.
The efficacy of the shot is based on an analysis of 30,000 participants and 101 confirmed cases of Covid-19, Dr Sultan said, quoting data from an independent data monitoring committee.
While the vaccine’s protection rate trails the more than 90 percent efficacy of shots developed by Pfizer Inc. and its partner BioNTech SE and Moderna Inc., its single-dose regimen and normal refrigerator storage requirement could make it a favourable option for many countries.
CanSinoBIO’s vaccine — which was approved for use in the Chinese military last year and has since been given to at least 40,000-50,000 people — uses a modified common cold virus known as adenovirus type-5 (Ad5) to carry genetic material from the coronavirus protein into the body.
However, researchers in an early and mid-stage trial report expressed concern the vaccine may not work in those previously exposed to Ad5, as the pre-existing antibody against the common cold virus could weaken the vaccine-triggered immune response.
CanSinoBIO is also testing a two-dose regimen of the vaccine in China including on participants aged between 6 and 17 and older than 55.
Shots from Chinese companies Sinovac and state-backed Sinopharm have shown the efficacy of between 50 percent and 91 percent.
The government portal keeping track of the outbreak in Pakistan on Monday reported 3,669 new infections of the coronavirus after conducting 43,498 tests, receiving back a positivity ratio of 8.43 percent.
The government launched a Covid-19 vaccination for the general public, starting with older people. It began with a focus on the oldest people in the community, generally over the age of 80.
“We will work our way down in the coming days,” Dr Sultan said at the time.
The government has not secured any supplies from vaccine manufacturers and is largely depending on the GAVI/WHO COVAX initiative for developing nations and donations from China.
— With additional input from Reuters