ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistan launched its COVID-19 vaccine drive on Tuesday at a ceremony in the capital attended by Prime Minister Imran Khan in which a doctor was the first in the country to receive the shot.
Around 500,000 doses of vaccine produced by Sinopharm and donated by China had arrived in Pakistan on a military flight on Monday, allowing authorities to kickstart a nationwide inoculation campaign starting with health workers.
“I congratulate my team…I will tell all the health workers that it is necessary for them to get vaccinated because they are the ones who are most exposed to risk,” Khan said in an address during the televised ceremony.
Vaccines were being transported around the South Asian country and will begin to be administered in areas outside the capital Islamabad on Wednesday, according to the federal agency overseeing the pandemic response.
Pakistan has also been pledged 17 million doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine under a global scheme to deliver coronavirus treatments to developing nations.
About 6 million doses will arrive by the end of March under the COVAX scheme, with the remainder due by mid-year, the government’s main health adviser said last week.
Pakistan, a country of 220 million people, reported 1,220 new infections and 63 deaths over the latest 24 hours, taking the total number of cases to 547,648, with 11,746 deaths.
Reporting by Charlotte Greenfield; Editing by Mark Heinrich