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Pakistan okays emergency use of Oxford-AstraZeneca jab

Order for Chinese Sinopharm vaccine to be placed within next few days, says top health official.

Pakistan’s drug regulator has approved the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use in the country, a top health official said on Saturday.

Dr. Faisal Sultan, special assistant to the prime minister on health, told Anadolu Agency that the vaccine can now be used in emergency cases in Pakistan.

His comments came amid discontent in the country over the government’s vaccine procurement strategy.

Dr. Sultan, who effectively acts as the health minister, told Anadolu Agency last week that Pakistan is expecting the first installment of 1.1 million doses from China’s Sinopharm by the first week of February.

However, he recently acknowledged that the Health Ministry has not placed an order for the vaccine.

Dispelling the impression that the government has delayed procurement, he told Anadolu Agency on Saturday that an order for the Sinopharm vaccine will be placed within the next few days.

Pakistan, which has so far recorded 516,770 coronavirus cases and 10,908 deaths, wants to launch a nationwide immunization drive by the second quarter of 2021, Nausheen Hamid, parliamentary secretary for health, said last month.

  • ‘Delay can be disastrous’

The health minister of the southern Sindh province assailed the federal government for being “lazy” in buying coronavirus vaccines, warning that Pakistan may be one of the last countries to start immunization.

Addressing a news conference in Karachi, Dr. Azra Pechuho urged the federal government to allow provinces to procure vaccines on their own.

“If we delay vaccination any further, Pakistanis may face travel restrictions, like the ones we have because of polio,” she warned.

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