A health worker takes a nasal swab sample from an elderly man at a COVID-19 testing facility at a hospital in Peshawar on Monday. AP
Tariq Butt, Correspondent
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on National Health Services, Regulations, and Coordination Dr Faisal Sultan on Monday announced that Pakistan will become largely self-sufficient in meeting its COVID-19 vaccine needs as it will begin producing the single-dose CanSino Bio vaccine locally.
In a media briefing, Dr Faisal said that due to the agreement on technology transfer, the National Institute of Health (NIH), will be able to produce three million doses per month which will significantly reduce the country’s dependence on other countries. Dr Sultan also said that 19 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines will be received by Pakistan by coming June.
He told the reporters that the government has so far signed deals for procuring 30 million coronavirus vaccine doses.
Dr Sultan stated that the government was not relying on donations and 90 per cent of the doses were being purchased. He said that 150,000 vaccines are being administered on a daily basis. "Our target is to increase this capacity to 300,000," he said.
He added that local filling of the single-dose CanSino vaccine was about to begin in Pakistan, under which three million doses will be prepared at the National Institute of Health of Islamabad each month. "This will reduce our dependence on imported doses," he said.
Meanwhile, Pakistan's recoveries from the coronavirus have risen to 728,044 after 5,842 more people recovered from COVID-19. Meanwhile, 5,377 virus patients are in critical condition.
In the meantime, after reducing the number of inbound flights to 20 per cent as part of measures to halt the spread of COVID-19 from May 5 to 20, Pakistan has also slashed the number of foreign airlines’ flights to 120 per week.
Currently, 29 foreign airlines have been operating 590 flights per week to Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar, Quetta, Faisalabad, Sialkot and Multan.
Air Arabia has been operating 60 flights weekly to Pakistan but it will now reduce its flights to 12 per week. Air China will reduce its flights to only one from seven weekly.
British Airways, which is currently operating 11 flights, will reduce the number to two. China Southern is operating nine flights, but it will reduce them to only two. Emirates is operating 67 weekly flights but now it will reduce them to 13 and Etihad Airways, which is currently operating 32 flights, will reduce them to six.
"We expect the first 10,000 doses to come on March 25, and 100,000 next month and 200,000 the month after," said Hassan Abbas, an official of AJ Pharma, CanSino's local partner, which will be importing the vaccine.
"The forum reviewed the implementation of SOPs during Eid holidays and expressed its satisfaction. It also appreciated the efforts of all stakeholders, especially the cooperation rendered by the public across the country..."
"The vaccine will be single dose and has been manufactured by the CanSino Biologics whose single dose injectable vaccine is already being used in Pakistan. Nasal vaccines are usually given to children but there will be no age limit for it..."
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