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Pakistan to Prioritize Haj Pilgrims for Pfizer Vaccine

by Newsweek Pakistan

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Planning Minister Asad Umar says the vaccine will also be given to people who need to travel abroad for study or work

Pakistan on Thursday announced it would prioritize Haj pilgrims and citizens traveling abroad for work or study for the American-made Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine due to the limited quantities of it available in the country.

Speaking to media in Islamabad, Planning Minister Asad Umar said that several countries were not recognizing vaccination certificates of Chinese vaccines, and students or laborers with valid visas who were traveling to those would be granted the U.S.-made vaccine. Due to the limited quantities of the vaccine in Pakistan—the country has received just 100,000 doses of the two-shot vaccine through the COVAX regime—he said it was necessary to restrict its usage for those who needed it most.

However, he added, the country was procuring more doses of the Pfizer vaccine and it would arrive in Pakistan shortly. To a question, he said that countries who were rejecting the Chinese vaccines right now would have no choice but to accept them in future, as it could eventually pose global problems. “If every country makes if compulsory for visitors to be inoculated by their choice of vaccine, the entire world will suffer,” he said, noting that the Chinese-made vaccines were among the most exported globally, as the American and European manufactured drugs were not available in sufficient numbers to cater to the entire global population.

Based on evidence from clinical trials in people aged 16-and-older, the Pfizer vaccine was 95 percent effective at preventing COVID-19. It has also been approved for use in adolescents aged 12–15 years.

Vaccination drive

To another question, the federal minister said that the government was striving to expedite the ongoing vaccination process so it could lift movement restrictions and allow businesses to resume normal activities. He said the government would soon launch a mass vaccination campaign to encourage more uptake of the inoculations, adding that the current 1,700 vaccination centers would be increased to 4,000 across the country to cater to all eligible citizens.

He said the government was partnering with the private sector and NGOs, as well as ulema, to assure people that the vaccines were safe and necessary to help the country overcome the pandemic. He said the NCOC had already directed authorities to ensure all teachers and staff of schools were vaccinated before educational institutions reopen nationwide later this month.

In a posting on Twitter, Umar said the government had decided to allocate a significant amount of the upcoming federal budget on procuring additional vaccines. “The acceleration of vaccination drive in the country is being made possible by huge investment by the federal government,” he wrote, adding that thus far nearly $250,000 had been spent on vaccine procurement.

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