Saudi Arabia is expected to approve Chinese Covid vaccines for pilgrims soon: Sindh Chief Minister

By Shafqat Ali | Gwadar Pro Jun 6, 2021

by Shafqat Ali

KARACHI, June 6 (Gwadar Pro) - Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah has said that Saudi Arabia was expected to soon approve the Chinese Covid-19 vaccine for the Hajj pilgrim.

Speaking to Gwadar Pro, the Sindh CM said that he had discussed the issue with Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to Pakistan Nawaf bin Saeed Al-Maliki in detail.

“This issue will soon be settled. The Saudi envoy has assured me of taking up the issue with his government and resolve the matter,” the CM said.

He said the people were naturally disappointed with the Saudi decision of not approving the Chinese vaccines for the pilgrims.

“I told the Saudi ambassador that most of the people had been vaccinated with the Chinese vaccines so it will be difficult for them to travel to Saudi Arabia under the existing conditions. The (Saudi) ambassadors has assured to cooperate. We are hopeful this issue will be settled soon,” he added,

Earlier, the Saudi ambassador along with Consul General Bandar Al Dayal and a delegation of King Salman Relief Organisation called on him at CM House.

At the outset of the meeting, the Chief Minister of Sindh informed the ambassador that since Saudi Arabia had not included the Chinese vaccines for Haj pilgrims, a wave of disappointment prevailed among the people of Pakistan. The government had administered Chinese Covid-19 vaccines to citizens of Pakistan, the CM was quoted as saying in an official statement.

“Now our people are quite upset that they would not be allowed to visit Saudi Arabia, as they have vaccination certificates for Chinese vaccines,” the CM said.

“The ambassador assured the chief minister that he would take up the Chinese vaccines issue with the Saudi authorities. The chief minister thanked the ambassador,” said the statement.

As Pakistan has started producing the single-dose Chinese CanSinoBio Covid-19 vaccine to be able to deliver three million doses a month from July, the National Institute of Health (NIH) has said an initial batch of 118,000 doses of the vaccine has been already delivered to the government.

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,” NIH executive director Professor Aamer Ikram said.

Ikram said the Chinese firm was supplying a vaccine concentrate that the plant then formulated, processed and packaged. CanSinBio had transferred some of its production technology to Pakistan and is supervising operations, he added.

Quality control was being carried out by Pakistan. “We’ve acquired technology and expertise to ensure quality control,” he said.

Pakistan has so far relied heavily on China in vaccine procurement and of the six vaccines approved for use in the country, three - Sinopharm, SinoVac and CanSinoBio - are from China.

The government says it has procured over 18 million 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 8.5 million doses of coronavirus vaccines so far, according to official figures.

On Saturday, the government said, Pakistan had received another million doses of Sinopharm from China.  A special plane of the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) airlifted batch of the million of Sinopharm vaccine from the Beijing Capital International Airport to Islamabad.

According to the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), another 1.1 million doses of Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines will arrive in Pakistan this month. 

The latest arrival of doses came after half a million jabs were flown in on Tuesday last and another half a million on the very next day. Last Sunday, a special PIA flight transported a consignment of 500,000 doses of Sinovac vaccine from Beijing to Islamabad. The government has decided to run massive vaccination drive across the country to achieve the target of providing 70 million vaccines to the people aimed at fighting the Covid-19 pandemic. So far, around 5.3 million people have been vaccinated in the country.

The concerned authorities have already arranged 10 million more vaccines while 10 million more would available in June and further 10 million in July.

A Chinese foreign ministry’s spokesperson has stated that China had always attached great importance to Pakistan’s demand for vaccines to help fight Covid-19 pandemic. “Chinese vaccines manufacturers have cooperated with Pakistan in the development and production of vaccines from the very beginning and will continue to export vaccines to Pakistan,” he added.

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