Pakistan will launch a Covid-19 vaccination drive in the second quarter of 2021, providing the vaccine to all citizens free of charge, Nausheen Hamid, parliamentary secretary on Health said on Wednesday.
In a tweet and a separate media talk, Hamid said that the federal cabinet had approved initial funds to purchase the vaccine. “PTI government will provide the coronavirus vaccine free of cost to the people. Government will start the vaccination from the second quarter of 2021,” she tweeted.
Hamid told a private TV channel that phase 3 clinical trials of Chinese vaccines were proceeding smoothly and hoped that the vaccines would be ready for the general public soon. She assured that vaccine would be available in the market, “once its efficacy proved”.
About the procurement of the vaccines, she said that the government would consider multiple factors before procuring a vaccine, including the type of vaccine, its efficacy, its safety and side-effects, storage requirements, cost, production capacity of the manufacturer and whether Pakistan had the access to procure it.
Pakistan has signed up for the UN’s Covax Facility, a global initiative aimed at equitable access to safe and effective Covid-19 vaccines worldwide. Hamid said that vaccines on low or cheap rates would be available at Covax. “Pakistan will also buy vaccines from the Covax platform.”
“The Covax platform will provide vaccine to 20% of the country’s population,” she said, adding that talks were under way with three companies for the purchase of the vaccine and $100 million had been approved in this regard.
Hamid’s announcement came a day after the federal cabinet approved the allocation of $150 million to procure coronavirus vaccine in the first quarter of next year and reduction in the cost of injections needed to treat the virus.
In his post-cabinet news briefing information minister Shibli Faraz and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan said on Tuesday that the frontline health workers and elderly citizens would be given priority for administering the vaccine.
Replying to a question, Hamid said country is in the grip of a second coronavirus wave, which could prove to be more lethal than the first wave but government had increased its capacity all across the country’ hospitals. She stressed that the government alone could not fight the war against coronavirus.
“We have to win this war as a nation,” she said, and asked the people to act responsibly. She urged the media to “continuously counsel” people on what precautions to take and how to go through this “difficult period”. Replying to another question she said country hospitals have more human resources and equipment for the purpose.