Pakistan becomes latest to approve AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use

Pakistan becomes latest to approve AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use
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Pakistan on Saturday gave the green light to the country's first coronavirus vaccine with the approval of AstraZeneca’s inoculation for emergency use. 

The country’s health minister, Faisal Sultan, informed Reuters of the emergency approval, which the nation hopes will be the first of many as it battles a rising number of COVID-19 cases. 

Sultan added that Pakistan also plans to acquire more than a million doses of Sinopharm’s vaccine from China, though many have raised questions about this candidate’s efficacy


The Chinese vaccine is awaiting approval from the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan, according to Reuters. 

“We are in the process to obtain Western origin and other vaccines both via bilateral purchase agreements as well as via the COVAX facility,” Sultan told the newswire. 

“Our aim is that the bulk of the population will be covered free,” the minister said, adding that Pakistan is also looking into potentially receiving Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine. 

The start to Pakistan’s vaccination campaign comes as the country has had more than half a million coronavirus infections, along with nearly 11,000 deaths due to the virus, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University

The United Kingdom earlier this month became the first country to begin administering the AstraZeneca vaccine, which was developed through a partnership with Oxford University. 

Trial data revealed the British inoculation to have a 62 percent efficacy rate if given in two full doses 28 days apart as it was for most participants. However, the drug was found to be 90 percent effective when a small group in the trial was mistakenly given half a dose initially followed by a full dose.


India this month also approved the AstraZeneca vaccine along with one developed in the country by a company called Bharat Biotech, though critics point out that this vaccine did not clear its last trial phase. 

Switzerland’s NZZ newspaper reported Saturday that the European country could become the next to issue regulatory approval for the AstraZeneca inoculation, citing two unnamed sources familiar with the matter.

According to Reuters, the Swiss newspaper noted that watchdog Swissmedic is planning a meeting for the end of the month to sign off on the vaccine.

Despite some countries’ approval of the AstraZeneca vaccine, Moncef Slaoui, the chief science adviser for the Trump administration's Operation Warp Speed, said late last month that approval in the U.S. likely won’t come until April due to concerns about the dosing error in trials.