Minister of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar announced on Saturday that Pakistan will receive doses of the British-produced AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine this year.
He said he had received a letter from COVAX in this regard, indicating that 17 million doses will be given to Pakistan in the first half of 2021.
“Good news about the COVID vaccine front. Received a letter from COVAX about [an] indicative delivery of up to 17 million doses of AstraZeneca in the first half of 2021, ”he said.
Of the total 17 million doses, six million are expected to arrive in March. Delivery begins in February, the minister said without specifying any dates.
“We signed with COVAX for almost eight months back to ensure availability,” he added.
Of the 190 participating economies, Pakistan is among the 92 that qualify for the World Health Organization (WHO) COVAX initiative, which ensures “rapid and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for all countries regardless of income level”.
The development comes as a special aircraft is ready to pick up the first batch of coronavirus vaccines that China has given to Pakistan. It is speculated that the vaccine that arrives tomorrow (Sunday) will be the one manufactured by Sinopharm.
Earlier this month, the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) granted permission for both – the Chinese-made Sinopharm and the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.
How the AstraZeneca vaccine works
The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is made from an attenuated version of a common cold virus, known as adenovirus, from chimpanzees and has been modified to look more like coronavirus – although it can not cause the disease.
When injected into a human body, the vaccine prompts the immune system to produce antibodies and trains it to attack any coronavirus infection. Preliminary data showed that the efficacy of the vaccine to prevent symptomatic infections was 70.4%.
The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is more suitable for developing countries as it can be stored in a normal refrigerator for six months, making it much easier to distribute. It is also cheaper to make.
The vaccine was first approved for emergency use by the British government.
Pakistan’s coronavirus situation
Over the past 24 hours, 2,179 COVID-19 cases were reported across Pakistan, according to NCOC data.
During this period, 65 people died of the disease, with most dying in Punjab (35) followed by Sindh (17).
Out of the 65 deaths, 36 died in ventilators.
The country has so far reported 543,214 cases and 11,623 deaths.