Staff Reporter Islamabad
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan has granted approval for emergency use of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine, it emerged on Saturday.
Talking to a news channel, Faisal Sultan confirmed that the Drug Regulatory Authority Pakistan has authorised emergency use of the vaccine across the country.
Two days ago, sources had said that the British-Swedish multinational pharmaceutical company has sought permission from Pakistani authorities to get its Covid-19 vaccine registered in the country. A local pharmaceutical company has submitted AstraZeneca’s vaccine data to DRAP, they said.
The AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine, which was granted its first approval by Britain late December, is cheaper and easier to use than some rival shots, thus providing major advantages in tackling a pandemic that has claimed more than two million lives worldwide. The vaccine, approved by the British Medicine and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority, is said to be effective for people of all age groups and could be stored in home refrigerators.
Pakistan, which is seeing rising numbers of coronavirus infections, said its vaccines would be procured from multiple sources.
“DRAP granted emergency use authorisation to AstraZeneca’s COVID vaccine,” the health minister, Faisal Sultan, told Reuters.
Approval has been given to get more than a million doses of Sinopharm’s vaccine from China, he said.
“We are in the process to obtain Western origin and other vaccines both via bilateral purchase agreements as well as via the COVAX facility,” he said.
The Chinese vaccine is awaiting approval from the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP), which has received and reviewed its data.
Pakistan is speaking to a number of vaccine makers, and Sultan said the country could get “in the range of tens of millions” of vaccine doses under an agreement with China’s CanSinoBio.
The vaccine company’s Ad5-nCoV COVID-19 candidate is nearing completion of Phase III clinical trials in Pakistan.
Efficacy is a key factor, said Sultan. “We have and are watching the evolving stories around efficacy of a number of vaccines.”
Sultan said preliminary results of the Cansino may come in by mid-February. He added that Pakistan was considering to engage with Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine.
Pakistan reported 2,432 new coronavirus infections and 45 deaths on Friday, taking the total number of cases to more than 516,000 and deaths close to 11,000.
“Our aim is that the bulk of the population will be covered free,” the minister said, adding that private sectors could also be allowed once supply was available to an authorized company.
Sultan added that Pakistan had adequate cold chain facilities for most kinds of vaccines.