Sindh demands vaccine procurement rights

Pechucho says provinces should be allowed to purchase two vaccines approved by DRAP

The Sindh government has demanded of the Centre to allow the provinces to procure the Covid-19 jabs so that the vaccination for the deadly contagion could be started at the earliest.

"Despite contact with the federal government regarding the coronavirus vaccine, no schedule for the availability of the jabs has come to light so far," Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho said.

"We will be the last country in the world to have a delayed availability of vaccines," she added.

Dr Azra was addressing a news conference alongside provincial information minister Syed Nasir Hussain Shah at People's Hall Sindh Secretariat Karachi on Saturday.

International Center for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS), University of Karachi Director Dr Muhammad Iqbal Chaudhry and others were also present on the occasion.

Dr Azra Pechuho stated that arrangements for the first phase vaccination in Sindh had been completed.

She maintained said that Karachi University's ICCBS was the only institution in the country where coronavirus was being profiled under genomic surveillance as mutations had been observed in the deadly virus with the passage of time.

She warned that if the vaccines currently available in different countries were not utilised, they might not be effective due to the change in the structure of the virus.

The Sindh health minister demanded that the two vaccines which were approved by the Drug Regulation Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) be allowed to be purchased at the provincial level.

"To save lives, it is important that we start vaccinating as soon as possible," she said.

Responding to a question, she said that vaccinating people would be more beneficial than making expenditure on the treatment of Covid-19 patient and that the provincial government would also be able to protect the lives of the health staff.

Dr Azra said that the provincial government wanted to procure Sinopharm vaccine, which was being used in China, UAE, Bahrain and other countries.

"No negative effects have been reported so far in the trial of Sinopharm (Chinese vaccine). The trials of the vaccine have been successfully completed and its safety level has also been checked," she said.

"The vaccine will be available in some private hospitals, but we want to provide it to the people for free of cost," she added emphasising that in view of the population in Karachi, it was important to start vaccination at the earliest.

"We can procure vaccines by spending a little bit every month by cutting other health expenditure," she observed.

Responding to a question, the provincial health minister said that the federal government would run the government hospitals under a private system after abolishing the pensions of the doctors and paramedics working in those health facilities under the conditions of IMF.

"We want to provide free medical facilities to the people of Sindh while the federal government wants to make the country a capital state by benefiting private hospitals and companies," Dr Azra said.

"The federal government wanted to take control of three hospitals (JPMC, NICVD and NICH) in Sindh but expenses of these hospitals are still being borne by the Sindh government," she added.

Provincial Information Minister Syed Nasir Hussain Shah censured the federal government saying the incumbent regime had "failed" to tackle the sugar, flour and petrol crisis and now they were "misleading" the people on the issues of vaccines.

Speaking on the occasion, ICCBS Director Dr Iqbal Chaudhry remarked that the coronavirus was rapidly mutating.

He said that they were conducting research on the virus following the orders of the Sindh government.

"Pakistan's virus is different from the virus found in rest of world. Genomic surveillance is being carried out all over the country following the directives of Sindh government."

Separately, Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar observed that the anti-coronavirus vaccine would be available in the country by March.

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