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In a major boost to the government’s coronavirus vaccination campaign, authorities rolled out the homemade Covid-19 vaccine ‘PakVac’ on Tuesday, a week after successfully developing it with the help of China’s CanSino Bio.
Simultaneously, with the ‘PakVac’ launch, a special Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight airlifted 500,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccine from the Beijing Capital International Airport to Islamabad, as the authorities prepared to embark on a gigantic task to inoculate the entire adult population.
‘PakVac’ was launched during a ceremony, attended by Planning Minister Asad Umar, who also heads the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), besides Special Assistant to Prime Minister on National Health Services Dr Faisal Sultan and others.
Addressing the ceremony, Umar said that the day was an important one for the country, adding that the entire nation was proud of the team that had developed the vaccine.
“We have witnessed a huge revolution taking place in this country right in front of our eyes in just a matter of months,” he said.
According to Umar, vaccines were in high demand all over the world but the Chinese-produced ones were "the most preferred" in Pakistan. “We need to promote PakVac as it is produced by us,” he said. "This is a revolution."
PakVac has been developed by China's state-run pharmaceutical company CanSino Bio. It was brought to Pakistan in a concentrated form, where it is packaged at the National Institute of Health (NIH) in Islamabad.
CanSino was the first Chinese vaccine which underwent clinical trials in Pakistan. The company's interim efficacy results showed the vaccine had a 65.7% efficacy in preventing symptomatic coronavirus cases and a 90.98% success rate in stopping severe infections.
Umar said that the coronavirus pandemic was not just a challenge for Pakistan but for the whole world. However, he added, thankfully the situation in Pakistan did not turn as grim as in many parts of the world. He mentioned that the NCOC played an important role in managing the pandemic.
Dr Faisal Sultan, the de facto health minister of the country, told the ceremony that developing a vaccine from the raw materials was not an easy task because a lot of hard work was required to maintain its quality. “We found our friend China closest to us in overcoming the Covid-19 challenge.”
He congratulated the NIH team on the development of the vaccine. "This is a milestone in the journey to achieve self-reliance," he said. On the occasion, he stressed the need for developing a centralised health data centre.
Meanwhile, a PIA special plane airlifted a batch of 500,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccine from Beijing on Tuesday, while another plane of the national flag carrier would transport another batch of 500,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccine on Wednesday morning, officials said.
On Sunday, a special flight transported a consignment of 500,000 doses of SinoVac vaccine from Beijing to Islamabad. A Chinese foreign ministry’s spokesperson stated that China had always attached great importance to Pakistan’s demand for vaccines to help fight Covid-19 pandemic.
Pakistan launched Covid-19 vaccination campaign in February, with Sinopharm shots donated by China. In the first phase, the frontline health workers were administered the jabs on a priority basis. The campaign was later expanded to other age groups, starting from the elderly people.
The government had already announced that vaccination registration for the people above the age of 18 will begin from June 3 (tomorrow), which means that now the campaign would cover the entire adult population of the country.
The government intends to administer vaccine to the 70% population by end of December 2021. In four months, about 5.3 million people have been vaccinated.
The authorities have already arranged 10 million more vaccines while 10 million more would available in June and further 10 million in July.
Parliamentary Secretary for National Health Services Dr Nausheen Hamid said on Tuesday that more than 20 million Pfizer vaccine doses would also reach the country soon. She added that the health authorities were on track to achieve the Covid-19 vaccination target.
“The government’s strategy is to maintain a balance between safety of our population and their social well-being and economic sustainability”, she told a private TV channel. “Now the registration [for vaccination] is open for the entire population,” she added.
Meanwhile, the national tally of active Covid-19 cases came down to 57,336, as 1,771 more people tested positive for the infection while 3,397 people recovered from the disease during the last 24 hours, the NCOC said, adding that the National Covid positivity ratio during the past 24 hours was 3.71%.
Among the active cases, the NCOC said in its daily bulletin on the disease prevalence, 4,161 patients were admitted to 639 Covid dedicated healthcare facilities across the country. During the past 24 hours, 3,842 patients were in critical care, including 443 on ventilators.
The bulletin said that 71 patients, of them 63 in hospitals, including 30 on ventilators, died during the past 24 hours. it added that most of the deaths, 40, occurred in Punjab, followed by 19 in Sindh and six in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The nationwide death toll stood at 20,850.
Since the pandemic outbreak in February last year, the country’s caseload of the infectious disease has risen to 922,824 cases, out of whom 844,638 people have fully recovered. So far, the NCOC said, a total of 13,269,214 coronavirus tests had been conducted.