Deal struck with Pfizer for 13m vaccine doses: minister

ISLAMABAD: The government has made an agreement to procure 13 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine from Pfizer, Minister of State for Health Dr Faisal Sultan said on Tuesday.

An exact timeline was not yet available, Dr Faisal told Reuters, but said the doses would arrive by the end of 2021, under an agreement the government has made with the manufacturer.

The government faced initial vaccination hesitancy and a shortage of vaccine supply but it started a mass vaccination campaign late last month that is now open to all adults. It has relied heavily on China for vaccine supplies.

The government in May received 100,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine through the COVAX facility, but authorities have only administered those to people who are immunocompromised and not suitable for other vaccines.

The government launched a nationwide vaccination drive, starting with older people and frontline healthcare workers, in March. The drive began with a focus on the oldest people in the community, generally over the age of 80, and worked its way down.

Battling a third peak of the virus, the Health Department began the campaign with Chinese Sinopharm and CanSino jabs.

Private hospitals in major cities are using the Russian Sputnik-V vaccine that has been imported by a local pharmaceutical company.

Nearly 13 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines have been administered so far, with about 3.5 million people fully vaccinated, according to the National Command Operation Centre, which is overseeing the pandemic response.

Pakistan has primarily used Chinese vaccines — Sinopharm, CanSino Bio and Sinovac — in its inoculation drive and, earlier this month, began allowing those under 40 to receive AstraZeneca, of which it has a limited supply meant for people travelling to countries that require it.

Earlier this month, the government approved spending $1.1 billion on procuring vaccines, part of its goal to inoculate at least 70 million people.

Over the weekend, a special flight of Pakistan International Airlines carrying 1.55 million doses of the Sinovac vaccine reached Islamabad from Beijing.

In a statement, the NCOC announced that the shipment was part of the “planned contracted quantity purchased from China”.

Measures had been taken to transport the doses to all provinces and federating units as per their requirements, the body announced.

The government portal has registered a total of 949,838 cases and 22,034 deaths. On Monday, 663 new infections and 27 deaths were reported.

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