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Pakistan yet to place orders for Oxford-Astrazeneca coronavirus vaccine

A Reuters representational image.
  • Pakistan’s procurement of Astrazeneca-Oxford vaccine timeline unclear
  • At the moment, vaccine being provided to country that pre-booked doses
  • Authorised agent offers vaccine at Rs1,000-Rs1,200 per dose to federal and provincial govts

KARACHI: Although the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) has granted approval for the emergency use of Oxford-Astrazeneca’s coronavirus vaccine, it is unclear when the inoculations will be available in Pakistan as the pharmaceutical company’s authorised agents are yet to place orders.

Last week, the Sindh Medical Stores (SMS) was allowed to import the vaccine. Talking to The News, SMS official Usman Ghani said at the moment the British-Swedish company was supply the vaccine to countries that had already booked vaccine doses and paid in advance.

“We don’t know when we would be able to get hold of the first consignment of the vaccine as it has been already purchased by the several countries of the world.”

Ghani said AstraZeneca has authorised the manufacture of the vaccine in Serum Institute of India in Pune for bulk production but most of that would be used for vaccinating a sizeable population of India before it is allowed to Pakistan. “We have very good business relations with the Serum Institute of India and we would try our best to procure it as early as possible.”

Vaccine for $6-7 per dose

The local firm has offered to provide the vaccine at the cost of $6 to $7 (Rs1,000 to Rs1,200) per dose to the federal and provincial governments if procured in bulk quantity (30 to 50 million doses).

To the private sector, the firm has offered Rs2,000 to Rs2,500 per dose if they place orders of 10,000 or more doses. “But it should be very clear that we would only be providing the vaccine to reputed institutions like Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH), Shaukat Khanum hospital, and others,” stressed Ghani.

When asked about firms offering to procure vaccine for $13.5 to $15.5 to the Sindh government, Ghani underscored that his company was the “sole importer” and “authorized agents” of the AstraZeneca company in Pakistan – which was not even ready to supply the vaccine directly to Pakistan.

“Similarly, there are reports that we have offered to supply the vaccine in thousands of rupees per dose, which is also incorrect and misleading. We cannot supply any product without the approval of DRAP and we hope that it would approve the vaccine price, which we have demanded,” he added.

No product can be sold in Pakistan without DRAP approving the price

Meanwhile, a DRAP official said no product can be sold in Pakistan without the approval of the pricing board. “The DRAP’s pricing board is reviewing the requests for price approval of both the vaccine.”

Responding to a query, the DRAP official maintained that both Oxford-Astrazeneca and China’s Sinopharm vaccines have been given emergency use authorisation and if any Adverse Effect Following Immunization (AEFI) was observed, the emergency use authorisation could be withdrawn immediately.

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