A doctor receives a dose of the Sinopharm vaccine at a vaccination centre in Lahore on Wednesday. AFP
Tariq Butt, Correspondent
Vaccination drives against the novel coronavirus started simultaneously in all provinces on Wednesday, a day after 500,000 doses of the vaccine arrived in Islamabad as a gift from China.
As per the government's vaccination strategy, health workers were the first to receive the vaccine.
A health worker reacts while receiving a dose of the Sinopharm in Karachi. Reuters
Simultaneous inauguration ceremonies, held in major cities of all provinces as well as in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan, were attended by the respective chief executives and other high-ranking officials.
Planning Minister Asad Umar, who is also the chair of the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), spoke to all the federating units through video link along with prime minister's aide Dr Faisal Sultan ahead of the inoculations.
Umar paid tribute to the frontline health workers for their "sacrifices and meritorious services" and termed them as the "real heroes" who put their lives on the line in the fight against the novel coronavirus.
The minister also thanked China for gifting 500,000 vaccine doses to Pakistan, which enabled the government to inoculate the national immunisation drive.
He said that the holding of simultaneous inaugural ceremonies reflected a national effort and collaboration between the provinces and the federal government in the fight against the contagion.
A health worker gestures while receiving a dose of the Sinopharm vaccine at a vaccination centre in Karachi. AFP
Dr Sultan assured the nation of the vaccine's efficacy saying that the vaccine had "been tested on thousands of people and has proven to be safe and effective so we don't need to worry."
"Let me tell you something about the Sinopharm vaccine," he said. "It is a good vaccine, its efficacy is between 79-86 per cent."
He expressed hope that by the end of the year, the government would be able to vaccinate 70 per cent of the eligible population, which amounts to 100 million people.
A health workers goes through a medical check-up after receiving a dose of Sinopharm in Peshawar. Reuters
He added that more than 500 vaccine centres had been established and according to the current capacity, 40,000 people can be vaccinated daily. The government was aiming to increase this number, he said.
In Sindh, the vaccination drive in Sindh kicked off with an inauguration ceremony in Karachi's Dow University Hospital Ojha, where an adult vaccination centre had been established.
Paramedics pose for a group photograph before entering a vaccination zone in Karachi. Reuters
Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar was the chief guest at the inauguration ceremony of the vaccination drive, which was held in Punjab House, Islamabad.
In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the vaccination drive started in Peshawar's Naseerullah Babar Hospital, where the provincial chief minister's focal person on COVID-19 Dr Asiya Asad was in attendance.
In Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal inaugurated the drive in Quetta, where he thanked the federal government for providing the vaccine to the province in the initial phase. He noted that the pandemic was a "huge challenge."
Crossing the four million does mark comes as result of the efforts made at the country level to contain the pandemic, the Ministry of Health and Prevention announced on Friday.
Following an EU summit, French President Emmanuel Macron said there was a "new type of world war," adding: "We are looking in particular at Russian and Chinese attacks and attempts to gain influence through the vaccine."
The total number of doses provided up to Wednesday stands at 3,691,591 with a rate of vaccine distribution of 37.32 doses per 100 people.
The announcement comes as the Ministry of Health and Prevention on Sunday expanded coronavirus vaccine eligibility in line with the UAE's proactive policy to ensure the health and safety of all community members.
The world's biggest greenhouse gas emitter has lagged behind its previous target of operating 58 gigawatts of nuclear power capacity by 2020, partly as the Fukushima nuclear accident slowed down approvals of new projects.
Prince Philip died aged 99 last week and his funeral will be held at Windsor Castle on Saturday. Traditionally at such formal occasions, members of the royal family wear military uniforms, often reflecting honorary titles they hold.
Tensions have escalated between the two countries in recent months over a raft of issues, most recently over Russia amassing troops on its border with Ukraine.