Pakistan will get doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine by either April or early May, while the government plans to buy advanced refrigerators to store the vaccines.

According to a senior official at the Ministry of National Health Services, the federal government will get the doses of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine through COVAX, a subsidiary of World Health Organization. COVAX works for equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines around the globe and it will provide vaccines free of cost. The official further revealed that Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine must be stored in an ultra-cold freezer at temperatures between -80ºC and -60ºC (-112ºF to ‑76ºF) and it can remain stored at these temperatures for up to 6 months. Currently, he stated, the vaccine cold chain system can only store vaccines up to -20ºC.

According to the official, the Federal Government will get 21 advanced refrigerators by the first week of March.

“We already placed orders for these refrigerators and they’re already shipped for Pakistan,” he stated, adding that the Federal Government received a grant of $3,00,000 from the Asian Development Bank via UNICEF for the refrigerators.

The refrigerators would be placed in vaccination centers of six cities of Punjab; Lahore, Rawalpindi, Faisalabad, Multan, Gujranwala and Bahawalpur, along with two vaccination centers of Sindh; Karachi and Hyderabad, three vaccination centers of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa; Peshawar, Abbotabad and Swat, two in Azad Kashmir; Muzzafarabad and Mirpur. Refrigerators will also be placed in Balochistan (Quetta), Gilgit and Islamabad.

The official, however, stated that COVAX so far has not conveyed that how many doses of Pfizer vaccines Pakistan will get.

“The doses of vaccines can be in thousands and even in millions but it all depends on demand and supply and right now we’re not in a position to comment on it but we will get it free of cost,” he added.    

Pakistan formally launched the coronavirus vaccination drive on February 3, 2021. China has donated 500,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine, which has an efficacy of 79.3%. Along with this, the Federal Government also allowed China’s CanSino COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use. UK’s AstraZeneca and Russia’s Sputnik V have also received authorization from the Health Ministry.

Hamza Habib is a senior journalist who has previously worked for leading newspapers and TV networks of the country. He mainly writes on the economy and political issues.

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