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Pakistan Receives First COVID-19 Vaccinations

by Newsweek Pakistan

File photo. Joe Raedle-Getty Images North America—AFP

Frontline healthcare workers to be vaccinated initially with 500,000 doses of China’s Sinopharm vaccine

Pakistan on Monday announced that it had received the first batch of China’s Sinopharm coronavirus vaccines, with Special Assistant to the P.M. on Health Dr. Faisal Sultan reiterating that frontline healthcare workers would be the first to be inoculated against the pandemic.

On Sunday, authorities sent a special Pakistan Air Force plane to China to airlift to Islamabad the first tranche of vaccines, which were gifted by Beijing following a conversation between Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and China’s Wang Yi.

“The first batch of Sinopharm vaccine has arrived!” Dr. Sultan said in a posting on Twitter. “Grateful to China and everyone who made this happen. NCOC [National Command and Operation Center] and provinces played an instrumental role in tackling COVID. I salute our frontline healthcare workers for their efforts and they’ll be first to get vaccinated,” he added.

The NCOC has already issued Pakistan’s vaccination protocol, under which the immunizations would be stored in Islamabad before being airlifted to the rest of the country. Under the provided guidelines, all eligible citizens are required to register via their CNIC. They would then be directed to appear for vaccinations at designated district centers, and would be monitored after inoculations to ensure there are no side effects.

Last month, Dr. Sultan announced that the government planned to provide free vaccinations to approximately 70 million people—around 70 percent of the eligible population over 18. Thus far, the government has said that 1.1 million doses would be “gifted” by China, while 17 million would be provided by the World Health Organization under the COVAX facility. There is no news on where the remaining 51.9 million doses would come from, as the government has yet to finalize orders with any vaccine manufacturers.

The Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) has approved three COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use: China’s Sinopharm, Russia’s Sputnik-V, and the U.K.’s Oxford-AstraZeneca. The government claims the private sector would also be permitted to procure the vaccines, but has yet to notify any pricing or distribution mechanism.

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