Islamabad: Pakistan’s government and more than 220 million citizens offered gratitude to Iron Brother China as they received the first batch of Sinopharm vaccine in aid on Monday.
On behalf of the Pakistani government and people, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi expressed gratitude to the Chinese government for providing the vaccine as the country fights the pandemic.
After receiving the vaccine from Chinese Ambassador Nong Rong at the Noor Khan Airbase, FM Qureshi thanked President Xi Jinping and State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi for China’s befitting gesture that once again demonstrated that it stood by Pakistani people in the hour of need.
“The friendship between Pakistan and China is people centric, making the bond stronger. Another vaccine with joint cooperation of Pakistan and China has also successfully passed initial trials. The success of this vaccine will be great news for Pakistan,” he said.
The Chinese ambassador formally handed over the Covid-19 vaccine to Foreign Minister Qureshi at the Noor Khan Airbase as the doses reached Pakistan from China.
Speaking on the occasion, FM Qureshi said Beijing practically gave proof of its everlasting friendship with Islamabad, and a new chapter of companionship between both countries will be written.
The Foreign Minister said China donated 500, 000 vaccine doses to Pakistan and is supporting us in steps to counter the pandemic.
A special Pakistan Air Force (PAF) plane with the first batch of Covid-19 vaccine doses reached Islamabad earlier in the day. The National Command and Operation Center (NCOC), which oversees Pakistan’s coronavirus response, had sent the special aircraft to bring the vaccine that Beijing had promised to provide.
The NCOC has taken necessary steps to store the vaccine in Islamabad and onward supply to various federating units particularly to Sindh and Balochistan through the air.
Speaking at the handing over ceremony, Ambassador Nong Rong said the vaccine donated by the Chinese government had arrived in Pakistan.
“I am proud to announce that Pakistan is the first country in the world to receive the Chinese government donated vaccine. I think everyone agrees with me that it is not only the vaccine to the people needed in Pakistan but more importantly a new manifestation to our iron brotherhood,” he added.
President Xi Jinping, he mentioned, had repeatedly said that the Chinese COVID-19 vaccines, once developed and put into use, will be global public goods. China has honored its commitment.
“Keeping the huge global need for vaccine in mind, China has lived to its best to offer assistance and support. Pakistan, as our closest friend, is the priority of our cooperation. Here, I would like to appreciate the Pakistan government for its facilitation and cooperation in the approval of the Emergency Use Authorization for Sinopharm’s vaccine and the phase III trial with the Cansino company of China. We expect more cooperation to follow and more people can benefit from it,” the envoy said.
This year, he said, “marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Pakistan. We are proud of the friendship that is higher than the mountain, deeper than the sea, sweeter than the honey. Our hearts grow closer in the joint fight against COVID-19 with the great solidarity and support we have for each other, the steady progress in bilateral cooperation, including the CPEC. China is ready to contribute to Pakistan’s pandemic prevention drive, economic recovery and social development. We are committed to the building of China-Pakistan Community of Shared Future. With these words, I am happy to hand over the vaccines to the government of Pakistan.”
China’s State Councilor and Foreign Minister, Wang Yi during a phone call with Foreign Minister Qureshi last week had promised to provide 500,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccine to Pakistan by January 31.
Later, Chinese Foreign Ministry’s Spokesperson Hua Chunying also confirmed that in order to support the brothers and sisters in Pakistan, the Chinese government would provide a batch of vaccines as aid and would actively coordinate with the relevant Chinese enterprise to speed up export of vaccines to Pakistan.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, China and Pakistan have been working together to overcome difficulties. Pakistan has approved two foreign anti-COVID vaccines as of now, including the Chinese Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine, for emergency use in the country.
Pakistan plans to provide vaccines to frontline health workers and elderly people in the first phase.
China’s CanSino Biologics Inc. has also offered 20 million shots to Pakistan as it gets ready to release efficacy results “in a few days” from phase III trials that have recently been completed in the South Asian nation, according to its local partner.
The Chinese maker of the single-shot vaccine will be giving Pakistan preferential access and pricing, said Hasan Abbas Zaheer, technical adviser at AJM Pharma, the local partner. It has already applied with Pakistan’s drug regulator to get approval. The company also plans to decrease the cost of procuring the vaccines by 25%, through filling the vials locally.
Pakistan is currently going through a second wave of infections that caused a peak in hospitalizations and deaths last month. Still, the nation has largely been spared the sweeping outbreaks of its neighbors Iran and India: total cases number 527,000 and fatalities over 11,000.
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination Dr Faisal Sultan said the government was grateful to China and everyone who made this happen. He said National Command and Operation Center and all provinces played an instrumental role in tackling Covid-19.