Cabinet committee assures Pakistan’s prime minister that vaccines will be available within the first quarter of this year
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday directed the Cabinet Committee on Procurement of COVID-19 Vaccines to expedite the procurement process to ensure sufficient supply was available for all Pakistanis.
During the meeting in Islamabad, the prime minister was briefed about ongoing efforts to engage more pharmaceutical companies for procurement of the vaccine. He was also informed that approval had already been granted to two vaccines for emergency use, and measures were underway to fast-track the approval of more options.
The committee assured Khan that vaccines would be available for Pakistanis within the first quarter of the current year.
Separately, Planning Minister Asad Umar briefed the federal cabinet about the impact on Pakistan of the ongoing second wave of the coronavirus. He said that around 20 million had lost their sources of income in April last year, and claimed that the government’s policies—“smart” lockdowns, allowing construction and manufacturing to reopen early—had helped to revive the country’s economy.
Khan appreciated the timely and transparent distribution of cash grants to the impoverished under the Ehsaas program, and claimed that the Bureau of Statistics’ recent survey had proven that the government’s COVID-19 strategy had been a success.
The cabinet also approved, under the second schedule of the Income Tax Ordinance 2001, tax exemption on profits gained through Euro Bonds; dealings in International Sukuk issued under the government’s medium-term notes; and Panda Bonds, issued in the Chinese market. It gave the go-ahead to the Ministry of National Health Services to directly make a five-year agreement with NADRA for data verification of the Sehat Sahulat Program.
The cabinet was also briefed on the Broadsheet scandal and informed about the measures taken in the past six months for civil service reforms. Khan directed the ministries and divisions concerned to take steps in line with the reforms to improve performance and the “ease of doing business.”
Also on Wednesday, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan issued a statement questioning why the federal government was absolving itself of the responsibility to provide COVID-19 vaccines to the public at subsidized rates by permitting provinces and the private sector to independently procure the inoculations. “The people of lower income groups are struggling hard to survive the unprecedented economic crisis unleashed by misplaced priorities and pro-rich policies of the federal government. The foreign aid received and funding allocated for fighting the pandemic must be used transparently and spent on vaccinating the citizens,” read the statement.
It also expressed concern over reports that some agents in Karachi were already pre-booking vaccines for Rs. 20,000/dose—a price that is out of the reach of a vast majority of the country’s population.