Pakistan on Monday received the first batch of 500,000 doses of the coronavirus vaccine donated by its closest ally, China, as the country gears up to kick start its immunisation drive later this week.
The vaccines were flown in from China on a special plane of the Pakistan Air Force. The consignment was formally handed over to Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi by Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Nong Rong at Nur Khan Air Base in Rawalpindi.
Alhamdulilah (by the grace of Allah) the first batch of Sinopharm vaccine has arrived! Grateful to China and everyone who made this happen. I salute our frontline healthcare workers for their efforts and they will be first to get vaccinated,” tweeted Dr Faisal Sultan, Advisor on Health to Government.
Pakistan will start its vaccination drive later this week, beginning with frontline health workers. So far, over 400,000 health professionals have applied for the jabs. Next, citizens over 65 years would be vaccinated; their registration will start in 10 to 15 days, according to Planning Minister Asad Umar.
Apart from the free vaccine doses which arrived on Monday, Pakistan will buy another 1.1 million jabs from China, while international vaccine alliance Covax has promised 17 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in the first half of the year.
At the ceremony in Nur Khan Ar Base, Qureshi said China had once again given practical demonstration of its friendship with Pakistan.
The minister appreciated the top Chinese leadership and its Army for critical help in tackling the pandemic.
Chinese Ambassador Rong said Pakistan is the first country to receive the COVID-19 vaccines for free from the Chinese government.
He said China sees Pakistan as its “closest friend” and “priority for cooperation”.