Islamabad: Special Assistant to the Prime Minister of Health, Dr. Faisal Sultan, said on Monday that Pakistan’s health authorities are negotiating with China and Russia to purchase a coronavirus vaccine.
“We are in talks with China, Russia and some other countries for procurement of the [COVID-19] vaccine after narrowing down our priority list,” Faisal Sultan, special assistant to the prime minister on health, told Turkish news agency Anadolu Agency.
The vaccine, he said, would be available in Pakistan sometime between January and March next year, and administered to health workers and senior citizens in the first phase.
“There is nothing final yet; however, I can tell you that we have to rely on more than one source,” the adviser said. “We will procure the vaccine only after its efficacy and safety is proven.”
Russia has started distributing Sputnik V COVID-19 shots nationwide, while China is testing its vaccine in many countries and is signing supply agreements.
Other vaccines seeking emergency use authorization are produced by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Oxford-AstraZeneca.
Islamabad has set aside $150 million in initial funds for the purchase of these drugs.
Last week, Pakistan’s Minister of Health, Nausheen Hamid, stated that all citizens will be vaccinated against COVID-19 for free, and this work will begin in the second quarter of 2021.
Pakistan has witnessed a surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths in recent weeks.
The South Asian country recorded 3,795 new infections on Monday, the highest single-day record since July 3.
The total number of medical records for 220 million people in the country reached 420,294, including 8,398 related deaths. So far, Pakistan has tested about 5.8 million people for the virus.
It is said that some patients who were being treated for this new virus died of oxygen shortages in a government hospital in Peshawar City on December 5. The provincial health minister has ordered an investigation into the incident.
On the other hand, Dr. Faisal said that the current government can take strict measures to control the country’s increasing number of COVID-19 cases.
He said people were not following the standard operating procedures, given by the government for combating the second wave of coronavirus.
About complete lockdown policy, he said the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government was not in favor of complete shutter down due to economic conditions of daily wage workers and labor community. In Europe, he said, the situation was different as compared to Pakistan.
In reply to a question regarding the vaccination, the special assistant said priority would be given to frontline workers discharging duties in the hospitals. To another question about deaths at Khyber Teaching Hospital, he said investigations were underway in that tragic incident.