COVID-19: Pakistan receives first batch of 1.2m AstraZeneca doses

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Pakistan received its first shipment of Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines through the Covax facility on Saturday, according to a statement issued by the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC).
The statement said that the first consignment consisted of 1,238,400 vaccine doses and would be followed by an additional 1,236,000 doses in a few days. It added that the doses would serve to support the government’s “ongoing historic drive to bring the pandemic to an end”.
“Further allocations from June onwards will be confirmed in due course. The goal of the Covax facility is to supply Pakistan with enough doses to vaccinate 20 per cent of the population depending on availability.”
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Health Dr Faisal Sultan received the consignment at the National Emergency Operations Centre headquarters with representatives from Covax’s technical and funding partners.
“In this unprecedented crisis, we appreciate Covax and Gavi’s (Global Alliance for Vacc­ines and Immunisation) contribution to the collective effort to fight Covid-19 in Pakistan,” said SAPM Dr. Faisal Sultan.
“Sometimes, such crises propel innovation and to this end, we were able to quickly expand the capacity of EPI’s (Expanded Programme on Immunisation) facilities to vaccinate our eligible population against Covid. Recently, we’ve been administering almost 200,000 doses a day and we will be able to increase to 0.5 million doses a day very soon,” he added.


SAPM Sultan also urged everyone above 40 to register themselves for vaccination so the mission to “immunise our fellow citizens, especially the ones who fall in the high-risk and vulnerable groups” could be continued, said the statement. “Very soon, we will be able to expand the campaign to other age groups and demographics,” he said.
The statement added that the AstraZeneca vaccines would supplement the purchased vaccines by the government and help to bolster the drive to immunise frontline healthcare workers, senior citizens and other priority groups identified in the National Deployment and Vaccination Plan by the NCOC.
“More than 3.3m vaccine doses have been administered to healthcare workers and citizens at large,” said the statement, further nothing that the The Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination had also ramped up the cold chain capacity of the EPI to meet the requirements of the vaccine deployment plan. “This also includes ultra-cold chain facilities in 15 large cities.”
“Sinopharm, Sinovac, CanSino-Bio and Sputnik [vaccine] doses have been administered in Pakistan so far,” the statement said.
“The 2.47m doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine will be used to immunise about 1.24m high-risk people against the virus,” said the statement.
Gavi Senior Country Manager for Pakistan, Alexa Reynolds, meanwhile, said, “This delivery — the first of many — is the product of an unprecedented global partnership to ensure no country is left behind in the global race for Covid-19 vaccines.”
She said the vaccines were safe and effective and would “play an important role in helping the country to end this pandemic”.
Covax is an alliance set up by Gavi, Coalition for Epi­demic Preparedness Innova­­tions and the World Health Organisation in April last year. The alliance has pledged provision of free vaccine for 20pc of the population of different count­­ries, including Pakistan.
“It aims to provide at least two billion doses of approved Covid-19 vaccines by the end of 2021, enabling the protection of frontline healthcare and social workers, as well as other high-risk and vulnerable groups in what will be the largest immunisation campaign in history,” said the NCOC statement.

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