While the country has yet to finalize any orders for COVID-19 vaccines, DRAP has thus far approved two vaccines for procurement
Pakistan on Monday approved emergency use of China’s Sinopharm vaccine for the novel coronavirus, the second vaccine to have thus far been granted this approval.
According to officials of the National Institute of Health, the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) decided to grant approval to Sinopharm after reviewing the results of its clinical trials during meeting held last week. Following this decision, the federal and provincial governments, as well as the private sector, can import the vaccine. Government officials have already said they hope to procure 1.2 million doses of the vaccine for frontline healthcare workers, but Planning Minister Asad Umar has stressed that no order has been finalized thus far.
Developed by a subsidiary of China National Biotec Group, the Sinopharm vaccine has a 79 percent efficacy, according to clinical results of Phase III trials. However, the United Arab Emirates—which approved it for emergency use in December—has said interim results showed it was 86 percent effective.
The approval for the Sinopharm vaccine follows last week’s approval of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine.
Separately, the Pakistan Medical Association has issued a statement urging the government to share details of the vaccines it is planning to procure to educate the public on doses and potential side effects. Referring specifically to the AstraZeneca vaccine, it questioned whether it only required one dose; multiple doses; or annual booster shots. “Who will be the beneficiary of this free vaccine? PMA and other stakeholders should be taken on board by the government. Healthcare workers both from public and private sectors should be administered vaccine on a priority basis. Up till now 175 doctors and 30 paramedics have lost their lives due to COVID-19,” it said.
The government has already announced that frontline healthcare workers will be prioritized for the first inoculations of any vaccine, followed by elderly over 65, and then the general public. Special Assistant to the P.M. on Health Dr. Faisal Sultan, meanwhile, has said that Pakistan only needs to vaccinate around 70 million people—or 70 percent of its population aged over 18 years old.
On Tuesday, the total deaths caused by COVID-19 hit 11,055, as 1,800 new infections were reported nationwide in 24 hours after conducting 36,513 tests. Despite the persistent reporting of new cases, the government has decided to reopen schools, with critics warning that it could boost the spread of the virus.