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UPDATE 1-Pakistan to get 3 mln doses of COVID-19 vaccines from China's CanSino next month -minister

(Recasts throughout with bulk import of CanSino vaccine)

ISLAMABAD March 30 (Reuters) - Pakistan will import more coronavirus vaccines made by China’s CanSino Biologics next month, equivalent to 3 million doses, the minister in charge for COVID-19 operations said on Tuesday.

Pakistan began a vaccination drive last month with over a million doses of Sinopharm vaccines donated by long-time ally China, but is scrambling to get more supplies as it awaits WHO/COVAX/GAVI allocations of AstraZeneca’s vaccine, which have been delayed.

“We will be getting the bulk vaccine by mid-April from CanSino, from which 3 million doses can be made,” the minister, Asad Umar said on Twitter.

“The bulk vaccine received will be formulated, sterilized and packed in Pakistan,” he said.

Coronavirus infections have risen sharply in Pakistan in recent weeks and outgoing finance minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday, the third senior government official to do so within 24 hours.

Prime Minister Imran Khan had tested positive last week.

Pakistan was also due to receive a previously ordered batch of 60,000 doses of the CanSino vaccine on Tuesday, Umar said, and it expects to receive another shipment of 1 million doses of Sinopharm’s vaccine this week.

The Sinopharm and CanSino vaccines arriving this week are the first that Pakistan has purchased, rather than being donations.

Pakistan had been due to receive a first batch of up to four million doses of GAVI’s total allocation of 45 million doses earlier this month, but that was delayed with AstraZeneca’s Indian manufacturer citing domestic needs.

Pakistan reported 100 deaths from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, and 4,084 new infections, with a national test positive rate of 8.8%.

The country has so far recorded 14,356 deaths and 663,200 cases of the coronavirus.

Besides the outgoing finance minister, who was removed from the post on Monday in a government shake-up, President Arif Alvi and Defence Minister Pervez Khattak announced they had both tested positive for COVID-19. (Reporting by Syed Raza Hassan in Karachi, Pakistan; Additional reporting by Umar Farooq and Gibran Peshimam in Islamabad; Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Susan Fenton)

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