ISLAMABAD, March 17 (Reuters) - Pakistan on Wednesday received a Chinese donation of 500,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccine, bringing the country’s total supply to 1 million shots, Health Minister Faisal Sultan said.
The South Asian nation of 220 million people launched COVID-19 vaccinations for the public on March 10, starting with older people. Health workers started receiving shots in early February.
“These 500,000 doses will ensure smooth continuation of our vaccine drive, currently under way for senior citizens,” Sultan said in a tweet.
Sinopharm, the only vaccine currently available in the country, requires two doses.
The virus infections have sharply increased lately in the overwhelmingly Muslim nation that has had a history of refusing vaccination.
The percentage of COVID tests coming back positive across the country has touched 6.26% and crossed 11% in Punjab, the largest province.
Pakistan has recorded 612,315 coronavirus cases and 13,656 deaths, with 2,351 infections and 61 deaths reported in the last 24 hours. (Graphic: tmsnrt.rs/34pvUyi)
The country has not secured any vaccine from drug manufacturers and is depending on the GAVI/WHO COVAX initiative for poorer nations and the donations.
Pakistan is expecting to get GAVI’s first batch of 2.8 million doses of AstraZeneca sometime later this month, officials said.
Besides Sinopharm and AstraZeneca, Pakistan has approved Russia’s Sputnik and China’s CanSino Biologics Inc’s (CanSinoBIO) vaccines for emergency use.
CanSinoBIO has released interim efficacy results from a multi-country trial, which included Pakistan, showing 65.7% efficacy in preventing symptomatic coronavirus cases and a 90.98% success rate in stopping severe infections.
In the Pakistani subset, efficacy of the CanSinoBIO vaccine at preventing symptomatic cases was 74.8% and 100% at preventing severe disease.
Authorities last week reversed a decision to allow large indoor gatherings like cinemas, theatres and marriage halls in Pakistan after opening up almost all sectors of society.
Reporting by Asif Shahzad; Editing by Lisa Shumaker