In a major development, Pakistan has successfully fulfilled all the prerequisites to request GAVI for the coronavirus vaccine through the COVAX facility, which is a coalition for equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines by all countries.
After releasing the application template on 17 November, GAVI had set 7 December 2020 as the deadline to receive the application.
Soon after this, the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI), under the guidance of the Ministry of National Health Services Regulations and Coordination, established a technical working group that worked around the clock to complete the consultation process while having all the stakeholders on board.
The proposal drafted therein was endorsed by the National Technical Advisory Group (NITAG) on Immunizations on 1 December and was approved by the National Interagency Coordination Committee (NICC) today in a meeting chaired by the Special Assistant to Prime Minister (SAPM) on Health, Dr. Faisal Sultan.
The attendees of the meeting who had convened through video link included the Director-General Health, representatives of the Ministry of Finance, national and provincial EPI Managers, representatives of the WHO, UNICEF, and GAVI, as well as other development partners and international donors.
Speaking at the occasion, the SAPM highlighted the efforts of the Government of Pakistan in curtailing the impact of COVID-19 using all potential measures and available options.
“Ensuring the availability of a safe and effective vaccine to the most vulnerable population groups at the soonest possible is yet another tool that the government is looking to benefit from,” stated Dr. Faisal Sultan.
“Protecting the healthcare workforce at the forefront of the response against the COVID-19 shall ensure our strength to tackle the challenge head-on while protecting the elderly with co-morbidities will help in reducing the associated morbidity and mortality,” he added.
Director-General Health, Dr. Safi Malik, congratulated the EPI team for their development of a concise proposal while taking into account the operational realities. The representative of partner organizations also praised the government’s commitment and proactive approach to benefitting from every opportunity that arises to mitigate the impact of the pandemic.
“The COVAX facility would best benefit countries at an advanced level of preparedness. Endorsement from all the stakeholders of a proposal developed through national consensus enhances Pakistan’s chances to be among the first countries benefiting from the initiative,” said Dr. Rana Muhammad Safdar, the National Coordinator for EPI and Polio Eradication.
The NICC meeting was convened by the Ministry of NHSR&S today to deliberate on Pakistan’s application to GAVI. Depending upon the availability of resources, the COVAX initiative aims to ensure an equitable supply of the vaccine to all countries irrespective of economic status.
Pakistan and other GAVI-eligible countries are likely to receive free of cost vaccines for a designated proportion of the population as well as additional quantities on special subsidized rates.