China has donated half a million doses of the Sinopharm vaccine, Pakistan’s health minister said.
Islamabad, Pakistan – Pakistan has received its first doses of the coronavirus vaccine, with China donating half a million doses of the Sinopharm vaccine to the country, the health minister said.
A Pakistani military plane carrying the cargo landed in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, on Monday morning, Dr Faisal Sultan said.
“Praise be to Allah, the first batch of Sinopharm vaccine has arrived! I am grateful to China and to all who made this possible, ”he said.
Video footage showed a forklift unloading boxes of vaccine from a military transport plane.
Sinopharm, a Chinese state-owned company, has developed one of the two main Chinese vaccines to be deployed worldwide, alongside Sinovac’s Coronavac vaccine.
Phase three trials for the Chinese vaccine CanSino are also underway in Pakistan, which last month granted emergency use authorization for the Sinopharm, AstraZeneca and Sputnik V vaccines.
“It currently ranks among the top 10 vaccine candidates as the end of clinical trials nears the WHO list,” its website says.
Monday’s Sinopharm shipment marks the first vaccines to be imported into the South Asian country of 220 million people, where more than 546,000 cases of the coronavirus have been recorded since the start of the pandemic.
At least 11,785 people have died from the virus, with a daily case count of 1,800 on average over the past two weeks, official data shows.
The first doses of the vaccine will be delivered to more than 400,000 frontline health workers across the country, in line with the government’s vaccine deployment plan.
After that, the vaccines will be provided to citizens over the age of 65, who usually face a higher risk of death from the virus.
No more vaccines to arrive
Pakistan is expected to receive an additional 1.1 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine from China by the end of the month, the country’s foreign minister said in January.
It was not known whether these doses would be Sinopharm, Sinovac or CanSino vaccine.
In an exclusive interview with Al Jazeera last month, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said China also plans to start production of the CanSino vaccine in Pakistan if the phase three trials prove successful.
In addition to doses from China, Pakistan has also secured the supply of 17 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine through COVAX, a global initiative of the Gavi Vaccine Alliance, Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations ( CEPI), World Health Organization and others.
Up to 6.8 million doses of these vaccines are expected to arrive in Pakistan before the end of March, Pakistani Health Minister Sultan said on Saturday.