Thanks to the Chinese donation, Pakistan is aiming to kick-start a Covid-19 vaccination campaign this week, giving public health workers half a million doses, marking the beginning of the deadly virus’s termination a year after the country’s first case was registered.
A agreement has also been announced to source 10 m more doses from China. The government has granted licences to half a dozen private companies to import vaccines, citing the dangers of corruption and a lengthy public procurement process. But confusion clouds the path ahead in the absence of clear pricing policies.
Commenting on the issue, Dr Faisal Sultan, Special Assistant to PM on Health, said in a message: “We intend to allow imports from the private sector, but deployment will have to be through the official system.” This requirement is to ensure that data is collected and vaccine certificates are created. There are minor details left to be sorted out.’
The government is aiming to procure enough free vaccinations from China, Covax and other outlets to vaccinate 20 percent of the population, Insiders told Dharti News, which it claims could contribute to herd immunity and save precious little for economic reconstruction. (Covax is an alliance co-led by Gavi, the Epidemic Preparedness Innovation Coalition and the World Health Organization to speed up the development, manufacture and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines for equitable access to all countries.)
Public confidence, however, is vital for the goal to be accomplished. A framework to ensure the free exchange of data is almost always useful. At present, the National Command Operation Centre (NCOC) hierarchy and the National Ministry of Health may be too busy managing the massive inoculation programme to make time for further clarity on the issues of financing, procurement policy, vaccine fitness and quality monitoring, the role of the private sector, pricing, and regulatory oversight.
It’s not easy, but we have succeeded in mitigating the destruction of the Pakistan pandemic and will deliver on a universal immunisation policy amid crushing restrictions, God willing. We are committed to providing security against Covid-19 to all people with the best intention of using any bit of capital (tangible and intangible) at our command, forging deep global cooperation,” commented a highly placed source not authorised to go on record without formal permission in Islamabad.”
Yes, we admit that the plan may have some loose ends, but that should not stop us from taking action. Look at even the most advanced nations with incomparably higher rates of fatalities and infections. There is no one who can afford to wait for perfection. As we pass and make changes for improved performance, we will learn. The level of cooperation on Covid-19 between all levels of the government is admirable,” he said.
Questions were submitted to the Federal Minister leading the NCOC, the nerve centre that synergizes national activities and executes the decisions of the National Coordinating Committee on Covid-19, but his answers did not hit Dharti News by the deadline. Parliamentary Health Secretary Dr Nausheen Hamid, Pakistan Drug Regulatory Authority CEO Asim Rauf and DG Dr Rana Muhammad Safdar of the Ministry of National Health were not available.
In the provinces, the health elite was often hesitant to go public with their complaints for fear of sparking a conflict, the writer heard.
Pakistan was lucky to avoid the full brunt of the pandemic terror that visited many parts of the world and fortunate to be among the first few to be able to implement immunisation to combat Covid-19 and its variants.
There are 25 nations so far where the Covid-19 immunisation campaign is in operation, according to a website, Our Planet in Numbers. That include the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada, France, China, India, Russia, Brazil, the United Arab Emirates, and Indonesia. As 52pc of its citizens have already been vaccinated, Israel is said to be ahead of the rest in terms of coverage.
Pakistan’s government has already declared emergency centre locations where, in the first step, it plans to prescribe 500,000 Sino Pharm vaccines to frontline public-sector health staff in 20 districts across Pakistan. Based on the spread of Covid-19 infections, six districts of Karachi, Hyderabad and Nawabshah in Sindh, Lahore, Faisalabad, Rawalpindi, Gujrat, Sargodha, Multan and Bhawalpur in Punjab, and Peshawar, Nowshera, Mardan and Charsada in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were initially identified to be covered by eight districts of Sindh and seven in Punjab and four in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
In these districts, the NCOC has obtained the full details of all government workers in the health sector from the regional resource control system where they are registered. Sindh would earn 170,000 doses for 82,359 healthcare workers in 20 districts, according to insiders, for the two-dose path. Some provinces’ specifics have not been shared. At this time, nobody appears to know where and how private healthcare providers will be protected.
An eight-step directing plan for the administration of vaccines has been declared by the government and its target order for coverage has been made explicit in accordance with WHO requirements. Three vaccines were approved: Oxford-AstraZeneca from the United Kingdom, SinoPharm from the China National Pharmaceutical Company and Sputnik V from Russia.
The WHO representative in Pakistan, Dr Palitha Gunarathna Mahipala, was travelling and was unable to give comments. Sources in the WHO office told Dharti News that the organization’s role in the pandemic is limited to consulting, policy recommendations and the exchange of training modules.
Muhammad Younus Billoo, one of the recipients of the licence to import Covid-19 vaccines from Sind Medical Stores, told Dharti News by telephone that orders would only be put until price clarification was provided by the government.
Dr. Muhammad Tariq, the USAID Global Supply Chain programme contractor advising the government on Covid-19, was enthusiastic about the collective reservoir of technical prowess that at an exponential rate has developed, generated and disbursed numerous vaccines. He believes Pakistan needs to build capability around bio-based and supply chain sciences for the long-term solution.
Khurram Lodhi, director of the Punjab Health Initiative Management Firm, said it is difficult to arrive at the baseline pricing of multiple Covid-19 vaccines since states are mainly implementing immunisation programmes.
In the near future, Qaisar Waheed, the chief of local drug companies, saw little potential for the country’s development of bio vaccines. It is an extremely risky, technically sophisticated capital intensive market that does not make sense for local private drug firms to enter into when there is space available without as much expense and pain to broaden business in the field.” He mentioned the state-of-the-art laboratories of the National Institute of Health Islamabad and Dow University.”
Local vaccines will be produced and sold in a few years if used to their potential. Building bridges between bio sciences and industry for quality healthcare for everyone in the country makes common sense.
A doctor participating in the exercise commented, “We are keeping our fingers crossed as Pakistan enters the next stage in its fight against Covid-19 and its new variants.”