Pakistan plans to start a covid vaccine program next week. Health care workers are given free dose samples of a vaccine made in China.
In that neighborhood, rival India launched one of the world’s largest vaccinations against the disease in mid-January. The vaccine power plant – India makes about 60% of the world’s vaccines. And started providing millions of free doses to its friendly neighbors in the region, known as “vaccine diplomacy“.
Unsurprisingly, Pakistan is not a recipient. The two nuclear-armed enemies have fought. Three wars since gaining independence from Britain in 1947. The last war between them was in 1971. They reached the threshold of war over the disputed Kashmir region in 2019.
Pakistan plans to vaccinate at least 70% of its 220 million population against Covid for free. Regulators have approved the emergency use of three candidates – the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine, and the Russian Sputnik V vaccine. Another Chinese vaccine, CanSino Biologics, is in its latest clinical trials in Pakistan. To date, the country has recorded more than 530,000 infections and 11,514 deaths from these infections.
China initially promised to donate 500,000 boxes of Sinopharm to Pakistan. So, the first batch is expected to arrive by the weekend. “It’s okay. We will need more vaccines,” Usman Ghani of Sindh Medical Shop, a leading vaccine importer in Karachi, told me.
Of course, Pakistan will try to deliver doses from around the world, including through the World Health Organization or the ambitious WHO Covax program, which is working to develop, purchase and ship vaccines to more than 180 countries. However, there are concerns that richer countries could deal a devastating blow to poorer ones. India can play a key role therein preventing its neighbors from starving for vaccines.
What We Know About India’s Covid Vaccine
A spokesman for India’s Foreign Ministry said he is “not aware Pakistan’s demand for a vaccine made in India“. Many believe it is only a matter of time before India starts exporting canned food. “We will suffer if we don’t cooperate on vaccinations,” said Usman Ghani.
Despite the difficult relationship, the pharmaceutical trade between the two countries has remained stable. And in 2018, Pakistan’s imports estimated at more than $ 62 million (£ 45 million) of pharmaceuticals from India. Pakistan imported 60-70% of the active ingredients in pharmaceuticals from India.
More importantly, according to Usman Ghani, “almost 90% of the vaccines given in Pakistan come from India. India’s vaccine is “world class, affordable and easy to supply“. Most of these vaccines are sold through Pakistan-funded immunization programs, who’s target 14 million newborns and pregnant women each year. The mothers were vaccinated against tetanus.
Mr Usman Ghani believes “Pakistan will receive a vaccine from India in the near future“. Indian regulators have given the green light to Covishield (the local name for the UK-developed Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine) and Covaxin, which is produced on-site by pharmaceutical company Bharat Biotech.
“From all over the world India already receiving so many orders. We have warm relationships with vaccine producers across the border. We will do our best to get supplies, but it will take time,” Mr. Usman Ghani said.