Pakistan is considering diplomatic choices to obtain Made-In-India Covid-19 vaccines -Covishield and Covaxin, as New Delhi is planning to send 20 lakh doses of Coronavirus vaccines to Bangladesh. Islamabad is pondering to get access to the Made-In-India vaccines through two ways - either to get the doses via global alliance for vaccines or via bilateral route, according to a report by the Indian Express.
Pakistan’s move to source Indian vaccines comes after the country’s drug regulator, the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP), over the weekend approved Oxford-AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use.
Why is Pakistan Seeking Made-In-India Covid 19 Vaccines?
Pakistan has reported more than 5 lakh Covid cases and almost 11,000 deaths. It has so far approved two Covid 19 vaccines for emergency use approval (EUA). The Drug Regulatory Authority Pakistan (DRAP) gave its nod to the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine, developed by China National Pharmaceutical Group (SinoPharm), and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.
Pakistan officials said that over the weekend, they registered the AstraZeneca vaccine with DRAP since its efficacy is over 90 percent.
"We have registered the vaccine as its efficacy is over 90 percent and will try to get it through alternative arrangements. What is more important is that it will enable us to acquire the vaccine through Covax as it cannot be allowed in the country without DRAP's approval," Special Assistant to Pak PM on Health, Dr Faisal Sultan confirmed the approval of AstraZeneca by DRAP.
Even though Pakistan's health ministry has said the country was in process of speaking to different vaccine makers, Islamabad has yet to place an order to procure any vaccine. Pakistan has planned to cover vaccines for the majority of the population for free, said the country's Health Minister Faisal Sultan, adding that private companies could also be allowed to import and sell vaccines once supply was available to an authorized company, as per a Reuter report. It must be noted Oxford-AstraZeneca's vaccine has shown better efficacy than the Chinese vaccine.
Now, the Imran Khan administration believes that it will be able to get access to the vaccine through Covax. The Covax is an alliance set up by the World Health Organisation, Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI), and Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI). Last year, the alliance pledged to provide free vaccines for 20 percent of the population of around 190 countries that include Pakistan. Islamabad is expecting that it will get the first consignment from Covax soon after the start of the second quarter of 2021.
However, for the remaining 80 percent of the population, Pakistan eyes Serum Institute of India-manufactured Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine as well as Bharat Biotech-ICMR's Covaxin through bilateral routes. Islamabad can also procure the Made-In-India Covid vaccines through a third country. However, the third country route is likely to push up costs of the vaccine doses, the IE report says.
While tensions between India and Pakistan have impacted bilateral trade between the two countries, the supply of "life-saving medicines" is exempted from restrictions.
Bilateral trade between the two neighbors has almost come to a standstill - first after the Pulwama terror attack in February 2019 and later, after the special status of Jammu and Kashmir was withdrawn. But despite the tension between the two, the supply of "life-saving medicines" has been kept out of the purview of restrictions slapped on bilateral trade.
Pakistan government is yet to formally approach the Indian Government over vaccines.
Made-In-India Covid Vaccines to Bangladesh
On Monday, authorities in Bangladesh confirmed that on Wednesday, January 20, a specially equipped plane will carry 20 lakh doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine- manufactured in India by the Serum Institute of India under the name Covishield - to Dhaka. The consignment will be handed over to the Bangladesh government by the Indian High Commission in Dhaka. Bangladesh has had more than 5 lakh cases of Covid, with about 7,900 deaths so far.