Pakistan plans to procure 'safe and effective' COVID-19 vaccine by first quarter of next year

A researcher at the Institute of Molecular Biology and Genetics (IBGM) of the University of Valladolid (UVa) works at a laboratory on searching a vaccine against COVID-19, in Valladolid on November 10, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 01 December 2020

Pakistan plans to procure 'safe and effective' COVID-19 vaccine by first quarter of next year

  • Dr. Faisal Sultan says the government has shortlisted vaccine manufacturing companies and started initial negotiations with them
  • Officials maintain Pakistan may receive free COVID-19 vaccines from an international alliance to immunize 20 percent of its population

ISLAMABAD: The government said on Tuesday it was hoping to procure sufficient doses of COVID-19 vaccines by the first quarter of 2021 to administer it to frontline health workers and vulnerable segments of population in the first inoculation phase.
"We have shortlisted some companies who are developing the vaccine and started initial negotiations with them," Dr. Faisal Sultan, special assistant to prime minister on healthcare, said while briefing the media along with the information minister, Senator Shibli Faraz, on decisions taken in the federal cabinet.
Sultan said the vaccine's procurement, supply, storage requirements and administration to the public were discussed in the cabinet meeting that was chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan earlier in the day.
The federal cabinet approved the Economic Coordination Committee's recommendation to allocate $150 million to acquire the vaccine from international companies, he said, while declining to name the firms the government was negotiating with.
"We are hopeful to purchase safe and effective vaccines from the manufacturers in the first quarter of the next year," he said, adding these vaccines would be administered "free of cost" to people in different stages.
Sultan said the cabinet was also requested to constitute a four-member committee to oversee the procurement process and ensure transparency.
The government also expects to receive free COVID-19 vaccine doses from GAVI, the vaccine alliance, to immunize 20 percent of its population, Dr Malik Mohammad Safi, director general for health at the Ministry of National Health Services, told Arab News last month.
"We have signed an agreement with GAVI to get 90 million doses for 45 million people, and this is expected to be delivered in the third quarter of the next year," he informed.
Safi said two doses were required to inoculate one person, and each dose was estimated to cost about $10, but "we will be getting it for free from GAVI."
GAVI is a public-private partnership that helps provide vaccines to developing countries.
A total of 92 low and middle-income countries, including Pakistan, will be able to access COVID-19 vaccines through GAVI's COVAX Advance Market Commitment. GAVI's goal is to supply two billion vaccine doses by the end of 2021.
Pakistan has been struggling to stem the spread of COVID-19 since February. Apart from testing, tracing and imposing lockdowns, the country has also participated in phase 3 trials of a Chinese vaccine.

PM Khan calls for affordable supply of COVID vaccines, debt relief for developing countries

Updated 25 January 2021

PM Khan calls for affordable supply of COVID vaccines, debt relief for developing countries

  • Pakistani prime minister delivers statement at fourth session of UN Conference on Trade and Development
  • Offers five-point agenda to address structural barriers hampering global development during pandemic

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday proposed a five-point agenda to address structural barriers hampering global development during the coronavirus pandemic, urging the "equitable and affordable" supply of vaccines to developing countries and calling for additional debt relief. 

Khan presented a statement at the fourth session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development Intergovernmental Group of Experts on Financing for Development. 

He said the pandemic offered an opportunity to address “structural barriers hampering global prosperity and development,” proposing a five-point agenda.

“One, a viable framework for equitable and affordable supply of COVID vaccine to developing countries. The coverage of the COVAX facility must be expanded. This would enable the developing countries to spend their precious resources on socio-economic development needs,” the PM said. 

He said developing nations should get additional debt relief, including suspension of debt repayments for the most stressed countries until the end of the pandemic, restructuring of their public-sector debt under an agreed and inclusive multilateral framework; and expanding concessional financing through multilateral development banks.

“Three, a general allocation of Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) of 500 billion dollars to help alleviate balance-of-payment pressures,” Khan added. “Four, return of stolen assets held by corrupt politicians and criminals ... Reportedly, a staggering amount of 7 trillion dollars is parked in 'haven' destinations. And it is also reported that one trillion dollars annually leaves the developing countries for these “haven” destinations.”

Finally, the PM said, mobilizing $100 billion annually by developed countries for climate action in developing countries was a target that needed to be met. 

“Economic malaise and recession, like the coronavirus, is highly communicable,” Khan said. “Global policy measures, along the lines I have outlined, are urgently needed to save lives, revive economies, and build back better.”

Pakistan has reported 534,041 COVID-19 cases so far, and 11,318 deaths, far lower than what officials had feared.

“In Pakistan, our efforts have been aimed at ensuring that we save people from dying from the virus, and at the same time preventing them from dying from hunger,” Khan said. “Our strategy fortunately has worked well so far. But continuous efforts are needed to fully overcome the second wave of the virus. And also at the same time to maintain and stimulate economic growth.”