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Covid Vaccine Not Seen: Supply disruption in Pakistan

Task of procuring the vaccines had been assigned to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) while the National Health Ministry was relieved of this duty.
NDMA was dealing with China for vaccines and was also trying to strike a deal with Pfizer.
Govt was heavily relying on 3 mn doses of PakVac (Cansino) vaccine but the plan could not materialise on time.

KARACHI/LAHORE: Pakistan on Tuesday faced a shortage of COVID-19 vaccines due to the lack of coordination among government bodies, coupled with a disruption in supply from China, local media reported.

Officials in the federal government said that the task of procuring the vaccines had been assigned to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) while the National Health Ministry was relieved of this duty. As a result, a lack of coordination was witnessed while there was a disruption in vaccine supplies from China which led to the crisis.

The NDMA, officials said, was not only dealing with Chinese vaccine manufacturers, including Sinopharm, Sinovac, and CansinoBIO, but it was also negotiating with Pfizer for the procurement of its mRNA vaccine for the country, a deal which could not be struck yet.

Similarly, they said, Pakistan was relying heavily on the National Institute of Health (NIH), Islamabad, for the preparation and filing of single-dose Chinese vaccine Cansino from the bulk concentrate, which is being distributed in the name of PakVac, but the NIH also failed to fulfil its commitment of sustained supply of the single-dose vaccine.

“NIH Islamabad had assured that they would be providing three million doses of PakVac (Cansino) vaccine per month but it failed to meet its commitment”, one of the officials said.

In the beginning, the Pakistan government inoculated people with the double-dose Sinopharm vaccine from China, followed by AstraZeneca from the UK before opting for SinoVac and single-shot Cansino from China.

The National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), which had received 100,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, has supplied 26,000 doses to Punjab, which will be administered to immunocompromised people, such as patients of organ transplant, cancer, and AIDS on a priority basis.

When contacted, a spokesman of the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations & Coordination said that the shortage of vaccine has spread thinly across the country. Therefore, he suggested that the relocation of vaccines from limited use CVCs was required. 

He further said that only limited quantities of vaccines were reserved centrally. “The next consignments of vaccines are expected towards the end of the current week,” he told the media.

Meanwhile, Punjab Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid, in a statement issued on Tuesday, claimed that Punjab has adequate vaccine stock available for the next three days and the “news of shortage are baseless.” 

“All districts have enough stock available, while Deputy Commissioner Lahore has a stock of 25,000 doses available at his disposal,” she said, adding that the vaccine was being administered to people at their doorsteps through 57 mobile unit camps in Lahore.

Ahmed Mukhtar Naqshbandi

Media person and communication expert for over 25 years. Worked with Dow Jones News, World Bank, CNBC Pakistan, Aaj TV, ARY TV, Abbtakk TV, Business Recorder, Pakistan Observer, Online News Network, TTI Magazine and other local and world Publications.

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