The Covid-19 vaccination is likely to be an uphill task for Pakistan. Although the Imran Khan government is hoping to receive the Chinese vaccine by mid-February and talks are on with Russia as well, there are roadblocks ahead.
The country has recorded a total of 511,921 Coronavirus cases so far, with the number of active cases rising to 33,869, news agency ANI reported.
On Tuesday, Pakistan concluded all trials of the vaccine made by the Chinese state-owned company Sinopharm, paving the way for its import.
“All three phases of the trial have been successful. It was tested on 18,000 volunteers and we are fully confident of its potential. But to distribute the vaccine across the country and giving it to people is a big challenge,” President of Pakistan Medical Association Qaiser Iqbal told BBC.
Earlier this month, Parliamentary Secretary for Ministry of National Health Services Dr. Nausheen Hamid had announced that the country will receive the first coronavirus vaccine shipment by the end of this month.
Before that, science minister Fawad Chaudhry had tweeted, “The Cabinet Committee has decided to initially purchase 1.2 million doses of the vaccine from the Chinese company Sinopharm, which will be provided free of cost to frontline workers in the first quarter of 2021.”
کابینہ کمیٹی نے فیصلہ کیا ہے کہ ابتدائ طور پر چین کی کمپنی سائنوفارم سے ویکسین کی بارہ لاکھ Doses خریدی جائیں گی جو 2021 کی پہلی سہ ماہی میں فرنٹ لائن ورکرز کو مفت مہیا کی جائیں گی، پرائیویٹ سیکٹر اگر کوئ اور بینالاقوامی طور پر منظور شدہ ویکسین امپورٹ کرنا چاہےتو وہ بھی کرسکتا ہے
— Ch Fawad Hussain (@fawadchaudhry) December 31, 2020
As for the Russian vaccine, Qaiser Iqbal said Islamabad is in talks with Moscow.
Meanwhile, Russia is “hoping” Pakistan will purchase Sputnik V. Russian Foreign Ministry’s Second Asian Department Director Zamir Kabulov had said on Tuesday: “We are in regular contact with Pakistani partners who express interest in Russia’s Sputnik V and other foreign vaccines. We hope that Islamabad will eventually opt for purchasing a batch of this vaccine in particular.”
Among the first ones to be vaccinated will be health workers and ‘frontline workers’ besides senior citizens.
While neighboring India has undertaken large-scale production of the Covid-19 vaccine, Pakistan is dependent on other countries for its supply. The Pakistan Medical Association has said that apart from China and Russia, Islamabad has been making efforts to get Pfizer, Moderna, BioNtech.
A former public service officer told BBC that Pakistan has allocated $150 billion to purchase vaccines, which will get only a million doses.
This will only vaccinate 0.2 percent of Pakistan’s population, hence the money set aside for vaccines is not enough to vaccinate the whole country. In order to attain herd immunity, about 21 crore people need to be vaccinated in Pakistan, experts claim.
Another concern that is bothering experts in Pakistan is the availability of the vaccine. Since many countries have placed orders for vaccines, there is a chance that the vaccines might not be available this year, hence Pakistan should be quick in placing orders for such a large population, experts say.