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Pakistan to start COVID-19 vaccination drive in April

Government will provide vaccines free of charge, says health official

Aamir Latif   | 02.12.2020
Pakistan to start COVID-19 vaccination drive in April

KARACHI, Pakistan

Pakistan will launch a COVID-19 vaccination drive in the second quarter of 2021, a health official announced on Wednesday.

In a tweet, Nausheen Hamid, the parliamentary secretary at the Health Ministry, said the vaccine will be provided free of charge to all citizens.

While Pakistan has not yet finalized any agreement with vaccine manufacturers, talks are underway to procure the doses.

The ministry had proposed Prime Minister Imran Khan to set aside an initial amount of $100 million to purchase the vaccines.

Federal Minister Asad Umar, who leads the country’s anti-virus strategy, told a private news channel that the Cabinet has approved the procurement of the vaccines, which are expected to arrive sometime between January and March next year.

In the first phase, he said, the health professionals who have acted as the frontline warriors in fight against the novel virus, and people above age 65, will be given the shots.

This follows an earlier announcement by health adviser Dr Faisal Sultan that the government is planning to set up a special fund for the vaccination program.

Pakistan has also signed up for the UN's COVAX Facility, a global initiative aimed at equitable access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines worldwide.

The South Asian country has witnessed a spike in coronavirus cases and related deaths in recent weeks, following months of relatively low figures.

The caseload has reached 403,311, including 345,365 recoveries and 8,166 deaths.

To avert a second wave, authorities have re-imposed “smart” lockdowns across virus hotspots, along with a general ban on public meetings and rallies. Entertainment venues such as cinemas and theaters have also been closed, while indoor weddings and public gatherings banned.

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