Earlier this week, Chughtai Lab announced that it is set to receive the Sputnik V vaccine for commercial use, making it the first private corporation to offer COVID-19 vaccinations to the public. However, this is the same company whose COVID-19 test results were termed unreliable; civil aviation and airport authorities internationally have refused to accept Chughtai Lab’s COVID-19 tests as viable proof, casting a troubling pall over the lab’s diligence and capacity.

Questionable testing methods

Chughtai Lab does not have the best record when it comes to COVID-19 related medical services. Previously, its tests have been refused by international airports as reliable proof of negative testing. Last year, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) posted on its social media handles to inform its consumers that Chughtai Lab’s test results are not accepted by the Dubai airport. “Dubai Civil Aviation Aurothity is not accepting Chughtai Laboratories… reports,” read the Tweet by PIA’s official handle.

This was the case despite Chughtai Lab using the testing kit that was approved by the American pharmaceutical regulator, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). If this information, that was advertised by Chughtai Lab, was true then there was no issue with the testing kits, but rather the negligence was in the chemical testing department. 

This incident led to a loss of confidence of the consumers towards Chughtai Lab and a preference for other private medical services providers.  

A lack of trust

This information gives rise to two questions. Firstly, can consumers and patients trust the lab which did not perform tests efficiently to administer the vaccine in a safe and effective manner? There is little to no chance of being harmed by an inefficient or bogus test, but the stakes are much higher with injecting a serum into one’s body. If the vaccine is not stored as per recommendations, it is uncertain if it can cause adverse effects. 

Secondly, are consumers likely to trust private vaccine providers generally? If this is the case, it would allow the private market to gauge the viability of such a model and Pakistan may see a rise in the import of vaccines by private companies. Which would allow a faster pace of inoculation for the population, at least in urban centers. But if the consumers remain wary due to the lab’s past record, this might be a blow to other vaccine importers are it is likely to be assumed that the consumer is unresponsive to this service from the private sector.  

Sputnik-V’s efficacy

However, consumers can draw some hope from the fact that the vaccine being imported has a high effectivity rate and has already been rolled out in other countries. Russia’s state-owned Sputnik-V company filed an application with the Drugs Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) in January, seeking permission for the emergency use of its vaccine in Pakistan.

The vaccine has also been approved for usage in Hungary, Algeria, Bolivia, Serbia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), among other countries. Its efficacy rate is 92%.


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