Pakistan approves AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine for emergency use

Vials with a sticker reading, “COVID-19 / Coronavirus vaccine / Injection only” and a medical syringe are seen in front of a displayed AstraZeneca logo in this illustration picture.

AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine has been approved for emergency use in Pakistan, the health minister said on Saturday, making it the first coronavirus vaccine to get the green light for use in the South Asian country.

Pakistan, which is seeing rising numbers of coronavirus infections, said its vaccines would be procured from multiple sources.

“DRAP granted emergency use authorisation to AstraZeneca’s COVID vaccine,” the health minister, Faisal Sultan, said.

Approval has been given to get more than a million doses of Sinopharm’s vaccine from China, he said.

“We are in the process to obtain Western origin and other vaccines both via bilateral purchase agreements as well as via the COVAX facility,” he said.

The Chinese vaccine is awaiting approval from the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP), which has received and reviewed its data.

Pakistan is speaking to a number of vaccine makers, and Sultan said the country could get “in the range of tens of millions” of vaccine doses under an agreement with China’s CanSinoBio.

The vaccine company’s Ad5-nCoV COVID-19 candidate is nearing completion of Phase III clinical trials in Pakistan.

Efficacy is a key factor, said Sultan. “We have and are watching the evolving stories around efficacy of a number of vaccines.”

Sultan said preliminary results of the Cansino may come in by mid-February. He added that Pakistan was considering to engage with Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine.

Pakistan reported 2,432 new coronavirus infections and 45 deaths on Friday, taking the total number of cases to more than 516,000 and deaths close to 11,000.

“Our aim is that the bulk of the population will be covered free,” the minister said, adding that private sectors could also be allowed once supply was available to an authorized company.

Sultan added that Pakistan had adequate cold chain facilities for most kinds of vaccines.

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