Special Assistant to Prime Minister of Health Dr Faisal Sultan said on Thursday that the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine for Covid-19, which began to be distributed in Pakistan this week, is not recommended for people older than 60 years.
Speaking to reporters in Islamabad, he said that while considering the preliminary review of Sinopharm results, the government expert committee had recommended that the vaccine be approved at this point for people aged 18-60.
“At this stage, the [committee] did not authorise the vaccine for people older than 60,” he added.
This was not a ‘uncommon’ situation, Dr Sultan said.
“When new medicines come, such things happen and the basis is whether that [age group of the] population or people with certain conditions were included in the research for it. When we get more data, perhaps it will be used for people above 60 as well.”
Days after receiving half a million doses of the Sinopharm vaccine donated by China, Pakistan began vaccinating frontline health staff against coronavirus on Wednesday.
Last month, the Pakistan Drug Regulatory Authority (Drap) approved China’s state-owned Sinopharm’s Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use. So far, three vaccines have been licenced for use in the world — Sinopharm’s vaccine, Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, and the vaccine produced by Oxford University-AstraZeneca.
Planning Minister Asad Umar declared on Saturday that the government had received a letter from Covax saying that Pakistan would be given 17 million doses of the Astra-Zeneca vaccine in the first half of 2021.
When asked by Dawn.com on which vaccine will be used for people over 60 instead of Sinopharm’s, Dr Sultan said the AstraZeneca vaccine would be used.
When it was pointed out that the AstraZeneca jab for the old age group had not been authorised by some countries such as Germany and France, raising questions about the data, Dr Sultan noticed that many other countries had approved the vaccine for senior citizens.
“We were fairly pleased with the AstraZeneca results when our Pakistani experts looked at the data, but thought that [based on] the currently available statistics for Sinopharm, the data did not support its use for those over 60.
“The Chinese have also reiterated this restriction,” he said.
He added, however, that these were “complex matters” and a homogeneous outlook on vaccine administration around the world was impossible to be seen.