ISLAMABAD: Nausheen Hamid, Pakistani parliamentary secretary on Health, has said the government will launch a free COVID-19 vaccination drive in the second quarter of 2021.
Hamid’s announcement comes a day after the federal cabinet approved the allocation of $150 million to procure a coronavirus vaccine by the first quarter of next year.
Government data released on Wednesday showed Pakistan had recorded 75 COVID-19 deaths in the last 24 hours, the highest in over five months, as the nationwide tally of fatalities jumped to 8,205 and infections reached 406,810.
“Government will provide the coronavirus vaccine free of cost to the people,” Hamid said in a tweet. “Government will start the vaccination from the second quarter of 2021.”
PTI government will provide the coronavirus vaccine free of cost to the people.
Government will start the vaccination from the second quarter of 2021. In Shaa Allah @ImranKhanPTI@nhsrcofficial pic.twitter.com/KVALSZVYdH
— Dr. Nausheen (@DrNausheenPTI) December 2, 2020
An official at the health ministry told the Dawn newspaper all vaccines under routine immunization programs, including the polio vaccine, were already provided free of cost in Pakistan.
“The government has allocated an amount of $150 million for the Covid-19 vaccine and it will be provided free of cost,” he said. “However, different segments of society will be prioritized for the vaccination and initially it will be given to health care workers, officials of law enforcement agencies, most exposed persons, etc.”
Speaking to a private TV channel, Hamid said phase 3 clinical trials of a Chinese vaccine were ongoing in Pakistan and she hoped it would be available to the public “once its efficacy was proved.”
She said the government would consider multiple factors before procuring a vaccine, including the type of vaccine, efficacy, safety and side effects, storage requirements, cost, production capacity of the manufacturer and whether Pakistan had access to procure it.
Hamid said Pakistan had signed up for the UN’s Covax Facility, a global initiative aimed at equitable access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines worldwide, adding that Pakistan would buy from the Covax platforms on cheap rates.
“The Covax platform will provide a vaccine to twenty percent of the country’s population,” she said, adding that talks were underway with three companies for the purchase of the vaccine.