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Gulf Today Report
As the death toll from coronavirus surpassed the 10,000 mark on Wednesday, Pakistan will purchase 1.2 million vaccine doses from China’s Sinopharm, a minister said on Thursday.
The first official confirmation of a vaccine purchase by the South Asian country as it battles a second wave of infections. The number of countries have pre-booked vaccines based on preliminary or incomplete results to ensure availability.
A health official in protective gear holds a sample collected from a man for COVID-19 in Peshawar. File/AP
A special cabinet committee decided to pre-book 1.2 million doses of vaccine from a Chinese state-owned company ‘Sinopharm’.
China approved a coronavirus vaccine developed by an affiliate of state-backed pharmaceutical giant Sinopharm on Thursday, its first approved shot for general public use.
Pakistani Minister for Science and Technology Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said on Twitter that “The Cabinet Committee has decided to initially purchase 1.2 million doses of the vaccine from the Chinese company Sinopharm, which will be provided free of cost to frontline workers in the first quarter of 2021.”
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Pakistan had earlier this month approved $150 million in funding to buy COVID-19 vaccines, initially to cover the most vulnerable 5% of the population.
The country did not announce which vaccine it would procure, but said a panel of experts was compiling a list of recommendations and that it could tap more than one source.
“If the private sector wants to import any other internationally-approved vaccine, it can do so,” Hussain said on Thursday.
The country of 220 million is in the midst of another spate of infections, with 58 deaths on Wednesday taking its death toll past 10,000.
It also reported 2,475 new infections, taking the total to 479,715.
Pakistan is also running phase III clinical trials for CanSino Biologics’ COVID-19 vaccine candidate, Ad5-nCoV, led by the government-run National Institute of Health.
“Thank God, the first batch of Sinopharm vaccine has arrived! Grateful to China and everyone who made this happen,” he said. “I salute our frontline healthcare workers for their efforts and they’ll be first to get vaccinated.”
Pakistan is hosting the third round of trilateral talks with Afghanistan and China to cover trade, counterterrorism and ending Afghanistan’s 18-year war.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s plan to change the status of Kashmir ran into fierce opposition Pakistan and China on Tuesday as the disputed territory lay under a telecoms blackout to forestall protests for a second day.
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“SP will be missed…may his memory is a blessing… we all continue to be inspired by his life and ideals,” Sheikh Nahyan said. “I greatly admired his wisdom and generosity, and I continue to marvel at all that was accomplished by him,” Sheikh Nahyan added.