ISLAMABAD: The government is assured that Pakistani people will be completely inoculated by the end of the year, with the vaccination process formally initiated by Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday.
In a well defined priority list, the National Command and Operations Centre (NCOC) has drawn up comprehensive proposals to acquire, distribute, and prescribe the vaccine to people. The broad structure for managing the mission with estimated deadlines and targeted numbers is given by these proposals, as shown by Dharti News.
“My concern is that there will be more vaccines and not enough people who are willing to inject themselves,” says Asad Umar, Minister of Federal Planning and Development and head of the NCOC. Despite massive odds, he piloted the massive operation of the nation to battle Covid-19 and succeeded in spinning a success storey in comparative terms.
The numbers reflect these chances. Here’s how Dr Faisal Sultan, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister for Health, describes these numbers: Pakistan’s estimated population is 220 million. Globally, it is an established assumption that persons under the age of 18 would not need a vaccine. That leaves over 100 million people if we take away all Pakistanis under the age of 18 from the total population.These chances are mirrored by the numbers. Here’s how the figures are represented by Dr Faisal Sultan, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister for Health: Pakistan’s estimated population is 220 million. Globally, there is an accepted assumption that there is no need for a vaccine for people under the age of 18. That leaves over 100 million people if we take away from the overall population of all Pakistanis under the age of 18.
How do 70 million people in Pakistan buy vaccines? And how long does it take? The proposals produced by NCOC, and accepted by the federal cabinet, clarify the methodology. “Funds are not a problem,” says Asad Umar. He notes that enough money has been authorised by Prime Minister Imran Khan to cover all costs for the vaccination programme. Dr. Faisal Sultan says that if he needs more funds, the Prime Minister has assured him that they will also be accepted without delay.
China has donated 0.5 million Sinopharm vaccine doses to Pakistan, which will inoculate 0.25 million residents. GAVI is committed to supplying 45 million Pakistanis with AstraZeneca, and possibly Pfizer, vaccines. Cansino, a Chinese vaccine, is in its final testing process and Pakistan has booked doses to vaccinate 20 million people. Together, these three outlets would represent 65.25 million of the 70 million Pakistanis targeted who are expected to be vaccinated.
In the official schedule, at least two additional suppliers of the vaccine are used. In Phase 3 trials, the Russian vaccine Sputnik has demonstrated 93 percent efficacy. Pakistan is in discussions to buy Sputnik with Russia. Moreover, the government actively supports the importation of vaccines by the private sector. The importers would, however, be necessary to register the vaccines with the NCOC and only those licenced and registered by the government can be obtained. These two vaccine outlets, Russia’s Sputnik and the private sector, should be adequate to cover up the slight gap remaining.
This might not be a concern, though. The amount of 70 million Pakistanis needing vaccination could technically be the target, Dr Faisal Sultan, SAPM on Health, thinks, but the actual number would be lower. He claims that if we take into account the percentage of people among the 70 million who will reject the vaccine and do not vote for it for any reason, the realistic number of those who will genuinely opt for vaccines will be closer to 40-50 million.
“I don’t believe we’re going to face a supply-side vaccine problem,” he says. “The demand side worries us more.”
Equally relevant are the timelines. Sinopharm has already been made available, according to the official strategy and its estimates, while AstraZeneca is likely to be purchased by March. If authorised, Cansino will also be in the pipeline, likely in March. Pfizer may arrive later in the year, and in the next month or two, Sputnik may also be ready for acquisition.
In terms of the different phases of vaccines, what does this mean? Officials state they can confidently assert that all Pakistani civilians needing vaccination will be inoculated by the end of 2021. It is predicted that the production of vaccines will be accelerated as more suppliers introduce their goods to the market in the course of the process.
Yet, certain uncertainties do remain. Pakistan is betting on Cansino and we have already booked 20 million doses in advance (this is a single dose vaccine), but there may be a concern if the experiments do not reach the necessary effectiveness for any reason. Likewise, Sputnik is still not officially authorised yet. The condition will be much more precisely determined in the next few weeks, as it seems the government is in reasonably strong charge of the operation of the vaccine.