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Pakistan to acquire vaccine for coronavirus by first quarter of 2021: Faisal Sultan

Dr Faisal Sultan

ISLAMABAD: Special Assistant to the Prime Minister Dr Faisal Sultan has said the federal cabinet approved the Economic Coordination Committee’s (ECC) recommendation to allocate $150 million to acquire a vaccine for the novel coronavirus.

While addressing a press conference along with Information Minister Shibli Faraz after a federal cabinet meeting, he said the government hopes to procure the COVID-19 vaccine in the first quarter of 2021.

Dr Sultan said that the government will consider multiple factors before procuring a vaccine, which includes: type of vaccine, efficacy and storage requirements. “Several companies that are working on the development of a vaccine have been shortlisted and initial negotiations have started”, the SAPM added.

He said the vaccine will be administered to the COVID-19 patients in stages: frontline healthcare workers will be the first priority; in the second stage, the elderly and at risk-population, in addition to other healthcare workers, will get the vaccine; and the common public will receive the vaccine in the third stage.

Dr Sultan further said that while $150m has been approved for vaccine procurement, the authorities will request the government to approve more funds if required.

The federal cabinet was also requested to constitute a committee comprising four or five members to oversee the procurement of the vaccine in order to ensure transparency, he added.

The SAPM informed that the price of remdesivir, a drug used to treat coronavirus patients, has also been dropped. Govt has fixed price up to Rs 5000 for a Remdesivir injection he added.

Responding to a question regarding the World Health Organisation’s recent findings on remdesivir, he said that the body had issued a rule, however, had not stopped the usage of the drug.

Earlier, the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) had approved a technical supplementary grant of $150 million for the purchase of the COVID-19 vaccine. 

The approval was given at a meeting of the ECC chaired by Adviser on Finance and Revenue Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh. The meeting was informed that the first phase of procurement and the amount of vaccine will suffice for the most vulnerable five percent of the population which incl health workers and the population above the age of 65 years.

It briefed that around 10 million people would be provided a vaccine cover under the above arrangement. The committee further directed the Ministry of National Health Services to discuss the proposal with World Bank and other donors in coordination with Economic Affairs Division so that they could assist in providing a financial facility for the procurement of the vaccine during the first phase.

The forum also directed the Ministry of National Health Services to draw a holistic proposal regarding the pricing and risk mitigation mechanism for the procurement of the COVID-19 vaccine for provision on a wider scale, in consultation with the relevant stakeholders.

ECC approved the request of the Economic Affairs Division to proceed with the formal request for availing the G-20 debt relief for the extended period i.e. January-June 202. The approval of the federal cabinet would be required for signing of the bilateral debt service suspension agreements.