The health and welfare of individuals and the future of Pakistan’s economy/trade rely on the successful use of government support for the procurement of the Covid-19 vaccine and the deployment of further money to put mechanisms in place to successfully handle inoculation when the opportunity occurs.
Soon after two drug makers, Pfizer and BioNTech, announced 95% effectiveness of their vaccines, Prime Minister Imran Khan authorised an initial $100 million (Rs1.6 billion) for this reason last week. Subsequently, the Economic Coordination Committee approved an additional $150m grant to procure the vaccine.
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It is expected that these vaccines will become commercially available by early next year. The prime minister reportedly approved early payments to drug-makers to ensure rapid supply and listed the order of priority for vaccine administration.
Learning to deal with the pandemic steadily, against all odds, businessmen and analysts remained optimistic about the future. Since the pandemic epidemic early this year, their hope is partly embedded in the success of the government.
Partly because of the country’s performance since the outbreak of the pandemic earlier this year, companies seem optimistic.
In containing the spread and mortality rate, Pakistan definitely did better than its similarly advanced global allies. On Nov 21, the Covid-19 dashboard of the World Health Organisation recorded 11.6m cases and 250,000 deaths in the United States. The devastating disease has been contracted by 9.05 million people in India and 132,726 people have lost their lives. 368,665 cases have been registered in Pakistan and 7,561 individuals have died since March. How much of this is done by the government? Health practitioners continue to fail to understand Pakistan’s fun discrepancy with the horrible global pattern.
As the growth rate dived and poverty/joblessness grew, the country’s economy took a significant beating. However as soon as the lockdown was relaxed, it indicated a promising prospect of bouncing back. The lavish subsidies of the government for the private sector and the opening up of the building sector to untaxed resources helped to raise the morale of the demoralised business community.
Context interviews found that the nation’s tycoons were concerned about moderating the effects of the next lockdown, but barely thinking about the prospects past next year. And the specialised corporate society segments are yet to deliberate on the shape of the business world post-Covid-19.
The CEO of Indus Hospital, Dr Abdul Bari Khan, was optimistic. Clinical trials of a Chinese vaccine developed by CanSinoBio and the Beijing Institute of Biotechnology are being undertaken by the hospital. Dr Khan said that Pakistanis, in any crisis, come together as a nation.
We have managed this far and God willing, by managing the inoculation process properly, we will delight ourselves again. Provincial coordination is being streamlined by the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC). We monitor, evaluate and track affected persons carefully. We also have digitised health provider, volunteer and caregiver records. Hospitals are well prepared to respond to emergencies,” he said.
Dr. Javed Akram, vice chancellor of the University of Health Sciences, claimed that Pakistan will be facilitated by global partners with money, because no nation should be ignored by the globe. I think the vaccine is not going to be expensive. As no nation will be safe until the whole planet is washed clean of the virus, it will be made affordable for all.
He was a proponent of self-sustainability of wellness, pressing for revived synchronised attempts to manufacture medicines locally. How much longer will we be satisfied with only manufacturing and packing foreign molecules from local drug-makers? It’s a wake-up call to close the divide, he said, between biochemists and industry.
The former president of the Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (PPMA), Kaisar Waheed, believes that relief from Covid-19 will come from the east. He said that clinical trials of vaccines produced by CanSinoBio and the China Biotechnology Institute of Beijing are underway in the country as standard refrigerators are needed.
The logistics of Western-developed vaccines involving storage temperatures of -20 to -80 degrees are not intended for countries such as Pakistan, he added.
Ehsan Malik, CEO of the Pakistan Business Council (PBC), denied the concerns of export and travel restrictions for not complying with internationally agreed health requirements as premature and unfounded. He shared a general 13-point document with recommendations for Covid-19 that the PBC established and circulated.
By opening its coffers and limiting tax and NAB hounds, the government nudged the corporate community to move focus from past (lockdown losses) to future strategies. A window of opportunities for direct compromises and asset whitening schemes was provided by the temporary departure of the IMF. They know that the honeymoon won’t last long,’ an observer commented.
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The head and members of the NCOC were evasive, silent about the prospect of attaining herd immunity at some time soon. Several efforts were unsuccessful in choosing the brains of Dr. Faisal Sultan, special assistant to the Health Premier, or other core members of the federal government team. On the primacy of the health threat to the national economy, senior officers in economic ministries approached for comment were not explicit.