Pakistan has started producing the single-dose Chinese CanSinoBio coronavirus (Covid-19) vaccine to be able to deliver 3mn doses a month, health officials said.
Branded PakVac, an initial batch of 118,000 doses of the vaccine is ready to be delivered to the government, the National Institute of Health (NIH) said, two days after the inauguration of the production plant in Islamabad.
Pakistan signed a deal with CanSinoBio late March to import a concentrate of the vaccine in bulk to process and package the vaccine locally.
“This is a co-production along with CanSino in Pakistan,” Aamer Ikram, the NIH’s executive director, told Reuters.
Ikram said the Chinese firm is supplying a vaccine concentrate which the plant then formulated, processed and packaged.
CanSinBio had transferred some of its production technology to Pakistan and is supervising operations, he said.
Quality control was being carried out by Pakistan.
“We’ve acquired technology and expertise to ensure quality control,” he said.
The plant will start producing 3mn doses a month, starting July, he said.
At the plant’s inauguration on Tuesday, Health Minister Faisal Sultan described the local production a “milestone in the journey to achieve to self-reliance”.
Both him and Ikram said the transfer of technology could help Pakistan to eventually manufacture the vaccine.
To be more cost-effective, 10 doses of PakVac will be filled into one vial.
According to the officials PakVac will save around 25% on vaccine cost, which according to government figures amounts to $250mn so far.
Pakistan, which has a population of 220mn people, faced initial vaccination hesitancy and a shortage of vaccine supplies, but last week started mass vaccination for all adults.
It has so far relied heavily on its ally China in vaccine procurement and of the six vaccines approved for use in Pakistan, three – Sinopharm, SinoVac and CanSinoBio – are from China.
The government says it has procured over 18mn vaccine doses via purchases or donations from China and allocations from the World Health Organisation and the GAVI Vaccine Alliance.
The inoculation programme has administered 8.5mn doses of coronavirus vaccines so far, according to official figures.
Pakistan reported more than 928,000 coronavirus infections and 21,105 deaths, with 1,893 cases and 83 fatalities yesterday.
Pakistan’s biotech and pharmaceutical industry is underdeveloped and the country produces few vaccines.
“Our co-operation not only effectively contributes to Pakistan’s efforts in fighting against the Covid-19 ... it reduces its dependence of the vaccine import,” said Chinese ambassador to Pakistan Nong Rong said at the plant’s inauguration.

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