Pakistan to buy 1.2 million doses of China’s anti-coronavirus vaccine

By: News Desk      Published: 10:24 AM, 31 Dec, 2020
Pakistan to buy 1.2 million doses of China’s anti-coronavirus vaccine

Pakistan has decided to buy 1.2 million doses of China’s Sinopharm vaccine which has a reported 79 percent efficacy rate against Covid-19, reported 24NewsHD TV channel.

In a tweet posted on Thursday morning, Federal Minister for Science and Technology Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said the Special Cabinet Committee has decided to initially purchase 1.2 million doses of the Chinese vaccine which will be provide free to the frontline health workers if the first quarter of 2021.

The minister further said that if the private sector wants to import any of the internationally approved vaccines it is allowed to do so.

On Wednesday, the Special Cabinet Committee, set up to oversee procurement of COVID-19 vaccine, decided to buy the vaccine from Chinese state-owned company, Sinopharm, based on data submitted and timely availability. 

The decision was made in the body’s second meeting with Planning and Development Minister Asad Umar in the chair. Ministers Chaudhry Fawad Hussain and Hammad Azhar, as well as PM aides Dr Sania Nishtar and Dr Faisal Sultan, were among the participants.

This decision was contingent upon emergency use approval by DRAP. Once approved and procured, the government will provide free of cost COVID-19 vaccine for all frontline health workers in the first quarter of 2021.

It was also decided that other manufacturers of COVID-19 vaccine will continue to be engaged in for future bookings for the remaining phases of vaccination, based on further data and availability.

It was reiterated by the committee that the private sector will also be encouraged to approach DRAP and follow the laid-down procedures for emergency use authorization of any available and safe COVID-19 vaccine.

The committee was apprised that a number of countries have pre-booked COVID-19 vaccine based on preliminary or incomplete results in order to ensure the timely availability of vaccines for their populations.

In some situations, vaccines were booked even in development stages to ensure availability. The committee was informed of the deliberations of a committee formed by the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) to analyzing available data from clinical studies performed so far. Of the available options, data from one company has been submitted for review to the committee for a final adjudication for emergency use.

China's first vaccine hustled to market

China has granted "conditional" market approval to a Sinopharm vaccine with a reported 79 percent efficacy rate against Covid-19, health authorities said Thursday, a major stride towards inoculating the world's largest population.

The Sinopharm jab, which has surged ahead of a raft of Chinese competitors during Phase 3 trials, could signal a breakthrough in the battle to squash the pandemic in Asia.

Around 4.5 million Chinese, mainly health workers and workers destined for overseas jobs, have already been administered largely unproven emergency vaccines, according to authorities.

On Wednesday, Sinopharm announced its leading candidate had a 79.34 percent efficacy rate.

That is lower than rival jabs developed in the West by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna -- with 95 and 94 percent rates respectively -- but still a game-changer for China.

Chen Shifei, deputy commissioner of the National Medical Products Administration, on Thursday told reporters his agency had granted a "conditional listing" to Sinopharm's vaccine

A conditional listing helps hustle emergency drugs to market in cases when clinical trials are yet to meet normal standards but indicate they will work.

"The known benefits of Sinopharm's new inactivated coronavirus vaccine are bigger than the known and potential risks," Chen added. 

The listing allows the government to "extend vaccination to high-risk groups, those susceptible to a severe viral infection... and the elderly," Zeng Yixin, Vice Minister of the National Health Commission told reporters.

But China faces the unprecedented challenge of getting vaccines to a population of more than 1.3 billion people.

"The general view is you have to vaccinate 60 to 70 percent to establish universal protection," Zeng added.

Beijing plans to vaccinate millions this winter in the run-up to Lunar New Year. 

"I'm convinced -- and please be convinced -- that the production of Covid-19 vaccines can meet the demand of large-scale vaccination we have in China," Mao Junfeng, head of Consumer Goods Industry Department added.

China has also pledged to swiftly share its vaccines with lesser developed countries at a "fair price", as it seeks global leadership in the recovery from a pandemic which first emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan a year ago.

As a winter wave of virus infections batters much of the world, spurring fresh lockdowns and grim spikes in death tolls, attention has returned to China's management of the pandemic.

China has broadly stamped out the virus inside its borders, introducing swift local lockdowns and mass testing when cases emerge. 

Beijing has been at pains to retool the pandemic story in its favour, touting the fast reflexes of its Communist leadership in locking down the country and restarting the economy.

China is forecast to be the only major economy to post positive growth this year.

But it has been heavily criticised for closing down discussion and reporting that questions the official narrative.

On Monday a Shanghai court jailed citizen journalist Zhang Zhan for four years for her reporting from Wuhan during the early months of the pandemic.

With inputs from AFP.