Pakistan has failed to successfully place an order to procure COVID-19 vaccines from any manufacturer or pharmaceutical company, the country’s top health official confirmed this week.
Special Assistant to Prime Minister (SAPM) on Health Dr Faisal Sultan confirmed that Pakistan’s efforts to secure access to the COVID-19 have been futile till now, whereas other countries have started mass inoculation drives for the general public or have procured vaccines for their at-risk demographics.
“Although we are striving hard to get the first batch of COVID-19 vaccine at the earliest for our frontline workers and others, the final order has not yet been placed and accepted,” SAPM Dr Faisal Sultan told the media.
PPP criticizes Federal Government
On the other hand, PPP chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari warned that all gains made against the pandemic would be in vain due to the federal government’s failure to procure the vaccine.
“The only solution to come out of this difficult situation is the vaccine,” he said in a press conference on Saturday, “whereas due to your [public’s] sacrifices and lockdown Pakistan was ahead, it will now fall behind.”
As of now, Pakistan has made no arrangements to import the vaccine, whereas its neighbours, India and Bangladesh have moved swiftly to gain access to the vaccine.
Bilawal told the media that the Sindh government had already prepared all mechanisms for a vaccination drive as the federal government had informed that the vaccine would be procured in early January. However, the federal government had failed to follow through, “Sindh government was expecting to roll out the vaccine in January. We were told to be prepared by January so the vaccination can begin,” he added.
Bilawal further talked about the fact that the federal government’s negligence on the issue would lead to private companies capturing the market with privately procured vaccines, which would mean only the rich would have access to the protective pharmaceutical drug. “The private sector will have full freedom. The private sector will be the first to arrange a vaccine and whoever has money will get vaccinated,” he said. The PPP chairperson further added that the government should have prioritized procurement for frontline workers.
Sindh Government’s Plans
Given these circumstances, the Sindh government has asked the federal government to be allowed to procure its own vaccine for the population. On Saturday, Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Pechuho criticised the federal government’s lethargy on the issue and urged for Sindh to have the route of getting vaccines directly from manufacturers without the federal government’s involvement.
Furthermore, she cautioned that a delay on this front would make Pakistan a “pariah” country.
Referring to the SAPM on health Dr Faisal Sultan’s statement on the vaccines, Pechuho commented, “Look at other countries, are UK, US, Europe all rushing? Even African countries have started procurement. India has started vaccination, and Turkey has started. You have been left behind in the race. We continue to sit back; our people will get sick and die. You will become a pariah internationally. Like polio, [Pakistanis] will have to show a coronavirus vaccination certificate, it would become hard to travel.”
The Sindh government wants to buy the Sinopharm vaccine, which is produced by China, in addition to other vaccines being manufactured around the world, the Provincial Ministers said in the press conference. The trials for the Sinopharm vaccine have been successful, and the vaccine is currently being used in China, UAE, and Bahrain.
“We have had no reports of any problems [caused by Sinopharm],” she told reporters. “The Chinese government had allowed ICCBS (International Center for Chemical and Biological Sciences) to procure the vaccine as it conducted its trials. But the Chinese government told us to contact them through the federal government or the foreign ministry.”
“So this is my request to the federal government to allow us to procure this vaccine,” she added while saying that the Sindh government wants to begin a vaccination drive as soon as possible “so our people can be safe and secure”.