ISLAMABAD: Parliamentary Secretary National Health Services Regulations and Coordination (NHSRC) Dr Nausheen Hamid on Wednesday said that the cabinet has approved initial funds to purchase coronavirus vaccines and these would be available to citizens for free.
She said the government has been working to arrange funds for a vaccine and it is expected it would be available by the second quarter of 2021.
Dr Hamid said that Phase-3 trials of a China-made COVID-19 vaccine are underway in Pakistan and are proceeding smoothly.
She said it is an honour for Pakistan to be among the few countries who are participating in “the biggest and a relatively difficult” Phase-3 study on the vaccine, adding that “the entire world is looking for medication to combat COVID-19.”
The parliamentary secretary assured everyone that the vaccine would only be available in the market “once its efficacy is proved”.
She added that several companies working on the development of a vaccine have been shortlisted and initial negotiations are under discussion.
Dr Hamid said the government will consider multiple factors before procuring a vaccine, which include: the type of vaccine, its efficacy, its safety and side effects, storage requirements, cost, production capacity of the manufacturer and whether Pakistan has access to procure that vaccine.
She said that vaccines at low or cheap rates would be available from the 186-countries platform COVAX and that is the platform where Pakistan plans to buy vaccines from.
“The whole world is booking vaccines; we are also in touch with everyone,” she said.
Dr Hamid said that orders are being placed keeping in view the availability and number of vaccines. She said talks were underway with three companies to buy the vaccine and that a sum of $100 million has been approved for the purchase of the vaccine.
‘Govt alone cannot fight this war’
Replying to a question, Dr Hamid said the country is in the grip of a second coronavirus wave, which could prove to be more lethal than the first wave, but the government has increased its capacity across the country’s hospitals.
She said unfortunately mass rallies have continued to take place in the country since the start of the pandemic where numbers and frequency have increased in the past few weeks, especially with Opposition parties holding massive rallies in different cities.
She said the “government alone cannot fight the war against coronavirus”.
“We have to win this war as a nation”, she said, asking people to act responsibly.
She urged media to “continuously counsel” people on what precautions to take and how to go through this “difficult period”.