Special Assistant to the P.M. on Health says vaccinations will occur in phases, with priority for front-line workers
The Government of Pakistan is hoping to procure a COVID-19 vaccine in the first three months of 2021, with the vaccination process to proceed in phases, Special Assistant to the P.M. on Health Dr. Faisal Sultan told the media on Tuesday.
Addressing a press conference alongside Information Minister Shibli Faraz he stressed that this target was not set in stone, adding that the federal cabinet had approved the Economic Coordination Committee’s recommendation to allocate $150 million for the vaccine’s acquirement.
Sultan clarified that the government was considering all the available vaccines to ensure it procured the one that would best suit Pakistan’s circumstances. He said the government was looking at the types of vaccines; their efficacy; their safety and side effects; storage requirements; overall costs; production capacity; and Pakistan’s ease of access. He said several companies had been shortlisted and initial negotiations started for the procurement.
The special assistant to the P.M. said the vaccine would be administered to the Pakistani population in stages, with frontline healthcare workers given the highest priority, followed by the elderly and at-risk populations; and finally the general population.
To a question, he said the government wanted to provide the vaccine to the entire population for free. He also clarified that the federal cabinet had decided to form a committee of four to five members to oversee the procurement of the vaccine to ensure transparency.
The de facto health minister also told media that the price of a 100-milligram injection of Remdesivir, a drug used to treat severe COVID-19 patients, had been slashed from Rs. 9,244 to Rs. 5,660 in view of prevailing international prices. To a question on the World Health Organization’s concerns over its efficacy, Sultan said that experts still saw some advantage in its use and it had not been banned.
Pakistan on Wednesday reported 75 deaths in the past 24 hours—the highest single-day toll since July 11. The government has maintained that it would not proceed to a total lockdown, claiming the country’s economy cannot afford such restrictive measures.