As the immunization campaign against the COVID-19 virus begins across the world, the federal government Health authorities confirm that Pakistan is yet to place an order for the vaccine, nor has any supplier accepted the country’s request. Dr. Faisal Sultan, SAPM on Health, confirmed earlier today that Pakistan is currently weighing its options.
In his interview with The News, Dr. Sultan confirmed that Pakistan is currently striving to get its first batch of the COVID-19 Vaccine, particularly for its frontline workers, but so far hasn’t placed an order yet. For many developing countries, with larger populations, workers are top priorities in immunization efforts.
Options and Concerns
Dr. Faisal also added that given the situation of the vaccines, they cannot give an exact date as to when Pakistan can expect to procure them. He said that Pakistan needs to assess its options carefully and conduct a proper assessment of the effectiveness of all its options.
He further elaborated on the options available to Pakistan including China’s Sinopharm, CanSino, Russia’s Sputnik V, and AstraZeneca. The Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) has received data from China’s Sinopharm, and are currently waiting to receive data from Cansino. DRAP has also requested more data from Sputnik V, which is also being considered as a viable option for COVID immunizations in Pakistan. As far as western Vaccines like AstraZeneca are concerned, Pakistan is negotiating to acquire the vaccine through multiple platforms.
With a target of vaccinating 100 million people, Pakistan will need to procure the vaccine through multiple means. Hence a “mix and match” strategy is underway, where Pakistan will try to procure different vaccines through different platforms. However, according to DRAP, Pakistan is in no rush to get vaccines, since available data on the efficacy of the vaccine requires more verification.
Although China is Pakistan’s best bet to get vaccines, recent clinical trials have documented the efficacy of Chinese Vaccines at 50.4%. Meanwhile, CanSino has asked for a few weeks to collate an analysis of its first trial interim. With the current progress in vaccine development, DRAP is currently exercising greater caution and is in no rush to acquire vaccines for now. A decision will be made once sufficient data has been collected and after federal authorities have tested the vaccine themselves.