They'll be given to people above 65 years
Pakistan will receive 2.8 million doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine close to March 2, PM's aide on health Dr Faisal Sultan announced Thursday.
These vaccines will be used to inoculate people above the age of 65 years, Dr Sultan said at a press conference in Islamabad. This demographic also includes health workers aged 65 and above.
We will receive this vaccine through the COVAX facility -- which is a global alliance formed to ensure equitable access to vaccines for lower-income countries.
COVAX is providing Pakistan a total of 17 million doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine. The first shipment is expected to arrive before June.
This is the second vaccine to receive emergency use authorisation by the World Health Organisation. It has proven to be 70% effective in clinical trials.
Around 65 countries are vaccinating their populations against COVID-19. Of them, 34 are using the AstraZeneca shot, Dr Sultan said. He urged people to get themselves registered at the earliest.
The PM's aide also announced that the second stage of the first phase of vaccination, which involves health workers not on the frontline, is about to begin soon.
"The registration of all health workers will start on February 22," he said.
Right now only frontline health workers are being immunised. They are being given the Chinese-made Sinopharm vaccine, which is a two-dose vaccine with an efficacy of 78.6%.
The government has not advised this vaccine for people above 65 years.
This doesn't mean the vaccine is not safe or effective, Dr Sultan clarified. Clinical trials did not include a sufficient number of elderly people which makes it difficult to predict the efficacy in this demographic, he added.
He said until the government gets more data, its experts have decided this vaccine won't be given to the elderly.
Dr Sultan said it was important to make sure everyone over 65 was immunised as this was a vulnerable segment of the vulnerable.
Most of the COVID-19 deaths in Pakistan have been reported in the elderly.