Pakistan looks up to China again amid Covid vaccines shortage

Karachi: Pakistan is once again looking up to Iron brother China as it has run short of Covid vaccines in several parts of Sindh, including the key city of Hyderabad.

Government officials confirmed that around 40% of the vaccination centres in Hyderabad and some parts of Sindh had been closed temporarily due to the shortage of the vaccines. Rest of the centres are only facilitating the people who visit for the second dose.

In the beginning, the Pakistan government inoculated people with the double-dose Sinopharm vaccine from China, followed by AstraZeneca from the UK before opting for SinoVac and single-shot Cansino from China. The Iron Brother has also gifted hundreds of thousands of vaccines to Pakistan amid the pandemic.

Government spokesperson said the task of procuring the vaccines had been assigned to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) while the National Health Ministry had been relieved of this duty. As a result, a lack of coordination was witnessed leading to delays in supplies from China.

The NDMA, the government spokesperson said, was not only dealing with Chinese vaccine manufacturers, including Sinopharm, Sinovac, and CansinoBIO, but it was also negotiating with Pfizer for the procurement of its mRNA vaccine for the country – a deal which is yet to be finalised.

A spokesperson of the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination said that the shortage of vaccine has spread across the country. “Therefore the relocation of vaccines from limited use (where there are lesser visitors) centres is required,” he elaborated.

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination Dr Faisal Sultan told Gwadar Pro that China had supported Pakistan all the way to fight the Covid. “We expect them to stand with us. They have helped us regarding the vaccines more than anybody,” he added.

He said the government was making sincere efforts to ensure the availability of the Covid-19 vaccine at all vaccination centres and more doses were expected to arrive soon. “We look up to China. They are the key. We believe in their support,” he maintained.

Pakistan is relying heavily on the National Institute of Health (NIH), Islamabad, for the preparation and filing of single-dose Chinese vaccine Cansino from the bulk concentrate, which is being distributed in the name of PakVac, but the NIH also failed to fulfil its commitment of sustained supply of the single-dose vaccine.

The NIH Islamabad had assured that they would be providing three million doses of PakVac (Cansino) vaccine per month but they fell short of meeting the target.

Dr Sultan said that, so far, 20 million citizens had been vaccinated as the government secured sufficient doses in the month of June to ramp up the vaccination drive in the country.

He dismissed talk of vaccines having run out in Pakistan as ‘hearsay’ and said that shortages were a ‘global phenomenon.’ He said that the vaccine situation in the country would improve after June 20 when “more vaccines would reach Pakistan.”

He said that the government was in contact with local and provincial administrations to make up the shortfall. “We are carrying out load balancing and redistribution locally to manage the situation across the country.” Dr Faisal Sultan added: “We have two million doses available and vaccinations will continue to protect our citizens from carrying the coronavirus.”

The PM’s aide said there was no harm if the second dose of vaccine was delayed by six to eight weeks instead of a routine three to four-week duration in between jabs.

Sindh Health Department says the shortage of vaccines was being faced because the federal government had not sent the supply to the province.