ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is poised to receive 200,000 doses of Pfizer’s updated COVID vaccine (2023-24 formula) from the United States in the coming days, with an additional 300,000 doses from the COVAX initiative, according to an official from the National Institute of Health (NIH) in Islamabad. The new formula is touted to be effective against existing variants, including Omicron and its sub-variants.
These doses are earmarked for vaccinating high-risk groups, particularly pilgrims preparing for the Hajj pilgrimage. However, before administration, Pakistani authorities must obtain a fresh Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap) due to the vaccine’s emergency use authorization status granted by the United States’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Despite the rising global cases attributed to the JN.1 variant, Pakistan has not yet detected this sub-variant. Nevertheless, officials believe that Saudi authorities may mandate vaccination with the new mRNA vaccine before permitting entry for the Hajj pilgrimage.
The NIH official highlighted the anticipated depletion or expiration of existing vaccine stocks by November 2023, emphasizing the urgency of acquiring the updated Pfizer vaccine. Notably, Pfizer’s vaccine for children aged six months to 11 years has received FDA emergency use authorization, and Pakistani authorities can secure Drap’s approval based on FDA certification.
The official underscored the sensitivity of ages below 12 due to evolving immune systems, suggesting that a vaccine suitable for children in this age group would also be effective for adults. As Pakistan faces the threat of emerging variants, securing the updated Pfizer vaccine and obtaining regulatory approvals are crucial steps in safeguarding public health.