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Pakistan to get Indian coronavirus vaccine, even if diplomats dither

Pakistan to get Indian vaccines under WHO's COVAX facility (IANS)

Even as Pakistan prepares itself to receive millions of coronavirus vaccines manufactured in India through the World Health Organization (WHO), its own diplomats in New Delhi are vacillating whether to get themselves immunized against coronavirus in India.

The indecision of the Pakistani mission staff follows an announcement by the Indian government to vaccinate the diplomatic community and their families against the coronavirus infection. The Ministry of External Affairs extended the offer to Pakistani diplomats and their families as well.

Irrespective of the decision by the diplomats, a majority of Pakistani citizens are likely to get shots of the Indian vaccine. Pakistani newspaper Dawn quoted Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan as saying that the country will get the made in India, AstraZeneca through the WHO. Sultan announced: "We are pleased to announce that the government of Pakistan, through Covax facility, has secured 17 million indicated doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, out of which 35-40pc (6-6.8 million) doses will be available within the first quarter.” 

He added: “Though AstraZeneca is being prepared in India, it will come through Covax, an international alliance which has announced free vaccine for 20pc of Pakistan’s population."

Pakistan has initiated its vaccination drive with half a million Chinese Sinopharm vaccines. The next lot of vaccines is most likely to be India-made, delivered through WHO's COVAX programme to bring equity in vaccination supply to the poor and low-income countries.

COVAX was initiated in April 2020 as a coalition by the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations (Gavi), the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and WHO to ensure that the battle against the virus was fought on all fronts and that every country got a fair share of vaccines. 

Pakistan is not new to Indian vaccines. A BBC report says that almost 90 per cent of the vaccines administered in Pakistan come from India. It quotes Usman Ghani of Sindh Medical Stores, a leading Karachi-based importer of vaccines, as saying that Indian vaccines are "world-class, affordable and shipping is easy." Moreover, these vaccines are distributed through the state-funded immunisation programme for women and children. 

The deadly coronavirus infection started from Wuhan, China, sometime in December 2019 and spread like wildfire across the world. Amid disarray and global confusion, the WHO declared it a pandemic on 11 March 2020 after ascertaining that it was spreading due to human transmission.

Covid-19 has caused 2,265,852 deaths with 104,525,105 people infected in 219 countries across the world. The arrival of vaccines by December 2020 has raised hope among governments that the pandemic can be reversed after a miserable year. India has been at the forefront of taking on the pandemic through its vaccine and pharmaceutical industry.

In December, the Ministry of External Affairs had taken 64 foreign envoys to biotech companies in Hyderabad to give them a glimpse of India's vaccine development efforts. The group visited the research and manufacturing facilities of Bharat Biotech and Biological E. Right from the beginning, India has made efforts to ensure that foreign diplomats are kept abreast of the developments on the vaccine front.

India jumped into the fray against the highly infectious virus to protect its own large and dense-packed population. Now it is spearheading that battle against the virus at a global level.