Pakistan receives second batch of 500,000 vaccines from China

Second donation of Sinopharm coronavirus vaccines brings the country’s total supply to one million shots.

A health worker counts used vials of Sinopharm vaccine at a vaccination centre in Karachi [File: Akhtar Soomro/Reuters]

Pakistan has received a Chinese donation of 500,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccine, bringing the country’s total supply to one million shots, Health Minister Dr Faisal Sultan said.

The South Asian nation of 220 million people launched COVID-19 vaccinations for the public on March 10, starting with older people. Health workers started receiving shots in early February.

“These 500,000 doses will ensure smooth continuation of our vaccine drive, currently under way for senior citizens,” Sultan said in a tweet on Wednesday.

Sinopharm, the only vaccine currently available in the country, requires two doses.

Vaccination uptake has been slow in Pakistan, where authorities have faced a significant amount of vaccine hesitancy among the general public and healthcare workers.

The percentage of COVID-19 tests coming back positive across the country has touched 6.26 percent and crossed 11 percent in Punjab, the largest province.

Senior citizens receive Chinese-made Sinopharm vaccine doses at a vaccination centre inside an exposition centre in Lahore [Arif Ali/AFP]

Pakistan has recorded 615,810 cases of the coronavirus and 13,717 deaths, with 3,495 cases and 61 deaths reported in the last 24 hours, according to government data on Thursday.

That daily case rise was the highest Pakistan has seen in more than three months, prompting authorities to tighten restrictions on public gatherings and warn of a third wave of the virus.

The country has not secured any vaccine from drug manufacturers and is depending on the GAVI/WHO COVAX initiative for poorer nations and donations.

Pakistan is expecting to get GAVI’s first batch of 2.8 million doses of AstraZeneca sometime later this month, officials said.

Besides Sinopharm and AstraZeneca, Pakistan has approved Russia’s Sputnik and China’s CanSino Biologics Inc’s (CanSinoBIO) vaccines for emergency use.

CanSinoBIO has released interim efficacy results from a multi-country trial, which included Pakistan, showing 65.7 percent efficacy in preventing symptomatic coronavirus cases and a 90.98 percent success rate in stopping severe infections.

In the Pakistani subset, the efficacy of the CanSinoBIO vaccine at preventing symptomatic cases was 74.8 percent and 100 percent at preventing severe disease.

Authorities last week reversed a decision to allow large indoor gatherings such as cinemas, theatres and marriage halls in Pakistan after opening up almost all sectors of society.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies