Pakistan to allow private sales of Covid vaccines by 'next week'
Islamabad agreed this week to allow the commercial import and sale of vaccines without price caps, which are usually set according to several economic factors, such as the price cap index, expected efficiency savings and inflation.
This is in contrast to most countries, which are importing and administering vaccines through government channels.
"We are told the first shipment is expected within the next week," Chughtai Lab director Omar Chughtai told Reuters, adding it would be receiving several thousand doses.
Pakistan's decision to allow private sales of vaccine without a price cap in a lower-income country of 220 million people has faced immense criticism.
Former Health Minister Zafar Mirza who said that avoiding a price cap for private sales "will deepen inequality in society at a time when there is a need to have widespread coverage".
It comes as Pakistan was given by longtime ally China, after it failed to complete deals to buy vaccines.
Around 500,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine were used in the first country's vaccination drive this month.
To secure Pakistan's access to more doses, Islamabad approved the emergency use of a second Chinese vaccine, making it the fourth drug to be cleared by the regulatory authority to tackle the deadly virus, which has claimed over 12,000 lives in the country.
Chinese company Cansino Biologics Inc's vaccine was approved by the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap) on Friday, after it conducted a clinical test on 18,000 volunteers from across the country.
Pakistan also approved the emergency use of the Chinese CanSinoBio, the AstraZeneca-Oxford University shot and Sputnik V, that was the first to become available to be imported, Chrugtai Lab said.
Health Minister Faisal Sultan told Reuters in a message he was "not directly aware" of the deal.
Chughtai declined to specify import costs or prices but said the price would "appear inflated" compared with what has been reported for Sputnik V globally, 10$ per dose, given the smaller volume it was planning to sell relative to global procurement.
"Internationally there is very high demand, and I would not be surprised if the price points are higher today," Chughtai said, adding that prices will come down over the next three to four months as more vaccines become available.
The Gamaleya Research Institute, part of Russia's Ministry of Health, developed Sputnik V, and published a study in February showing the vaccine had an efficacy rate of 91,6 percent.
Sputnik V uses double-stranded DNA, unlike the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, with single-stranded RNA, molecules important to the production of proteins and similar to DNA.
Chughtai said he expected an official government decree in the next two days specifying rules on inoculations by the private sector, including on registration of recipients, and the company should receive shipments every four to five days.