Japan-Funded Vaccine Equipment Officially Handed Over to Pakistan

Japan has officially handed over cold chain optimization equipment worth USD 6.59 million to Pakistan, which will help the country enhance its capacity to store the COVID-19 vaccines. Pakistan has procured the equipment through the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Parliamentary Secretary on Health, Dr. Nausheen Hamid, received the cold chain equipment from the Ambassador of Japan to Pakistan, Matsuda Kuninori, during a ceremony held at the National Emergency Operation Centre, Expanded Program for Immunization (EPI). Aida Girma, the Representative of UNICEF in Pakistan, was also present on the occasion.

In her remarks, Dr. Nausheen Hamid stated, “We greatly value the significant contributions made by Japan during the last 70 years of its diplomatic relations with Pakistan.” She acknowledged that Japan partnered over the years with Pakistan in various sectors, including health, education, and power. “I affirm our strong desire to further deepen and broaden our bilateral ties with Japan,” she underlined.

She mentioned that the Expanded Program for Immunization in Pakistan had a strong cold chain system that was considered the backbone of the program as it handled and stored massive quantities of vaccines inclusive of all kinds of COVID-19 vaccines. “It is, however, important to know that the cold chain system can be risky in countries which have extreme temperatures and the power supply is unreliable,” she emphasized. She extended gratitude to the Government of Japan for providing the cold chain optimization equipment for vaccine storage and ensuring a quality check.

The equipment procured from Japan includes power generators, voltage regulators, and temperature monitoring devices which will enhance the vaccine storage capacity of EPI, especially at provincial and district levels where power outage and voltage fluctuation is frequent. The new equipment will help ensure optimum temperature control at storage facilities thus maintaining the efficacy of the Covid-19 vaccine.

Japan has extended a total of $23.5 million grant assistance to Pakistan for its counter-COVID19 measures including provision of hygiene items, medical equipment, and training of health care staff. The Japanese funds will also be used to strengthen the capacity of healthcare staff to handle the cold chain equipment.

Speaking on the occasion, the Japanese Ambassador stressed that Japan prioritized the health sector as part of its development cooperation policy for Pakistan for decades, including maternal and child health, polio eradication, routine immunization, and counter-COVID-19 measures. He expressed a hope to open a new area of cooperation in the future between Japan and Pakistan in the health sector, suggesting that tackling diabetes could be one of the candidates.

“I am looking forward to seeing a new chapter added to the friendship between Japan and Pakistan on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries next year,” the ambassador said.

As part of the COVID 19 pandemic response, UNICEF has been assisting the government of Pakistan in procuring COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX facility. It has also procured cold chain, laboratory, and personal protective equipment and handed it over to the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations, and Coordination.

“Today’s ceremony reinforces the high level and longstanding support of the Government of Japan to UNICEF in its efforts to procure vaccines and essential equipment for strengthening immunization services in Pakistan,” said Aida Girma.

“May it be routine immunization or the large-scale COVID-19 vaccination drive, storage of vaccines at optimum temperature is essential to maintain their efficacy and effectiveness. The cold chain support equipment being handed over to the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations, and Coordination today, will help in making vaccines available to people across the country, especially the marginalized and those living in hard-to-reach areas,” she concluded.