Pakistan will launch a free COVID-19 vaccination drive in April 2021, confirmed parliamentary secretary for National Health Services, Dr Nausheen Hamid, on Wednesday. The coronavirus vaccine will be provided to all by the government free of charge.

“PTI government will provide the coronavirus vaccine free of cost to the people,” she wrote in a Tweet. “Government will start the vaccination from the second quarter of 2021.”

In an address to media, she also said that initial funds for the drive have already been approved by the government.

Talking to a private media channel, she said that trials of Chinese vaccines were proceeding successfully, and soon the vaccines would be ready to be administer on the general public.

The vaccine would only be available in the market when “its efficacy proved,” she added. She assured that the government would consider all relevant factors before procurement of the vaccines, such as the type, efficacy, storage requirements, cost, safety, and side-effects of the vaccine. The government will also consider the production capacity of the manufacturer and Pakistan’s accessibility to procuring the vaccine.

All of this should be done by the second quarter of the coming year, she said.

“Pakistan will also buy vaccines from the Covax platform,” Dr Hamid elaborated. “The Covax platform will provide vaccine to 20% of the country’s population.”

The Covax Facility is an initiative by the United Nations for global provision of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines. Dr Hamid said that Covax will provide vaccines at a cheap rate to Pakistan.

A day before Dr Hamid’s announcement, the Federal Cabinet approved the allocation of $150 million for the procurement of coronavirus vaccine.

The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) had approved the supplementary grant of this amount on November 20. According to the Ministry of Health, this would be the first phase of vaccine procurement, and would suffice for the most vulnerable 5% of the population. These include health workers and senior citizens.

As of December 3, the total active COVID-19 cases in Pakistan number 51,654.


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