A Comprehensive Guide to Pakistan’s Coronavirus Vaccines

Dr. Maroof Vaince

10 min read

Pakistan’s Fight against the Corona Pandemic:

The Corona Virus emerged in the Wuhan Province of China in Dec 2019 and was declared a Global Pandemic on 11 March 2020. The Virus has affected Over 111.7 million people globally with more than 2.4 million dead and over 63 million recovered. It left the world frozen in time as ordinary life came to a screeching halt for millions around the world, even those living in the most advanced countries in the world were unable to cope with the new status quo. For months everyone in the world was waiting for the first coronavirus vaccine.

In Pakistan, the first case of coronavirus was reported from Karachi on February 26, 2020, and  573,384 cases have been reported since. We have had 12,658 deaths and 536,243 recoveries spread all over the country. 

The COVID-19 pandemic in Pakistan, a country of about 220 million people, is presently relatively under control  and now that Coronavirus vaccinations are officially starting from February 2nd, 2021  the situation is more likely to change for the better. Dr. Rana Imran Sikander, who heads the COVID-19 ward at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences, was the first person in Pakistan to receive the vaccine and kick off the vaccination drive,

China, a long-time ally of Pakistan has joined Pakistan in the fight against CoronaVirus and has gifted 500,000 doses of Chinese Sinopharm vaccine for which the storage arrangements have been made in Islamabad. 

Alongside this, The World Health Organization has launched its COVAX program, an initiative to ensure the supply of vaccines to all countries, and has indicated a supply of up to 17 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine for Pakistan in the first half of 2021. 

Dr. Faisal Sultan, the special health assistant to the prime minister, made a statement that almost seven million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine will be available for Pakistani citizens in the first quarter of the year and the rest within the second quarter of 2021.

Pakistan has also become the first country to commercialize & market Coronavirus Vaccines after the Director of Chughtai Lab made the announcement that they are awaiting the batch of Russian made Sputnik V. 

Other than this, Pakistan in collaboration with China is also working on the Phase 3 trial of another Chinese coronavirus vaccine from Cansino Biologics, Inc. “With the successful trials of the vaccine, Pakistan will be entitled to receive 20 million doses, provided the results are positive and the vaccine proves to be effective,” announced Dr. Faisal Sultan. 

With the successful completion of Phase 1: Vaccination of Frontline Health workers, Phase 2 of vaccination for people above 65 years of age will shortly begin and soon enough, Phase 3 will be initiated. Pakistan has secured Corona Vaccine in a rather effective amount and this will surely help them in this vaccination drive. 

Everything You Need to Know About Coronavirus Vaccination in Pakistan 

In Pakistan, COVID-19 Vaccination has begun and is in the initial phases where just front-line health workers will be given the vaccine. In phase 2, all Pakistanis above the age of 65 can register for the Coronavirus vaccine. After the successful trials of these phases, the vaccine will be available for the general public. 

So far Pakistan has approved the three following coronavirus vaccines:

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine:

This coronavirus vaccine was made at Oxford University and was tested by AstraZeneca, a large British-Swedish pharmaceutical company. So far this vaccine has an efficacy rate of 62% and has gone through three full phases of testing. No one who has received the vaccine has become ill because of it. It was tested and approved in the UK, Brazil & South Africa and has also been approved by the European Medicines Agency for people above the age of 18. 

Although it is currently unknown how long it’s protection will last as more studies have to be conducted. This vaccine is made by modified versions of the common cold virus, these cells cannot cause any kind of illness but do teach the body’s immune system to fight the actual virus, should it appear.

The China National Pharmaceutical Group SinoPharm vaccine: 

Created in China by the Beijing Institute of Biological Product, the Sinopharm vaccine has an efficacy rate of 79%. It has been through three full phases of testing in the U.A.E, Morocco & Peru where it was approved by local authorities. China has begun exporting this vaccine to other countries, including Pakistan. 

This vaccine is not recommended for people over the age of 60. It is made up of deactivated Coronavirus cells that stimulate the immune system and cause it to create COVID-19 antibodies, giving the patient protection from the virus. It is currently unclear how long this protection lasts and could be anywhere from a few months to entire decades. 

The Russian-developed Sputnik V vaccine: 

Developed by Russia’s Ministry of Health and tested by Gamaleya, a Russian medical research institute, the Sputnik V vaccine has a proposed efficacy rate of 92%. It is important to note that although the vaccine’s phase 1 and phase 2 trial data has been published, the phase 3 data has not, so this efficacy rate can not be verified. Russian scientists have not reported any side effects associated with the vaccine. 

The vaccine has mainly just been tested in Russia but has been approved in Argentina, Pakistan & 20 other countries. It also uses a modified version of the common cold virus to teach the immune system to fight COVID-19.

Global Distribution and Performance

The Russian-developed Sputnik V vaccine

As of December 2020, Belarus and Argentina granted emergency use authorization for the vector-based vaccine. Hungary became the first European Union country to register the shot for emergency use, as well as the United Arab Emirates in the Gulf region. Emergency use has also been authorized in Algeria, Bolivia, Serbia, the Palestinian territories and Mexico.

On January 25, 2021, Iran approved the vaccine with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif saying the country hopes to begin purchases and start joint production of the shot in the near future after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei banned the government from importing vaccines from the United States and the United Kingdom.

Russia was the first country to conduct testing and grant approval for the Sputnik V vaccine and now the list for approval has expanded to the following 30 countries: Belarus, Argentina, Bolivia, Serbia, Algeria, Palestine, Venezuela, Paraguay, Turkmenistan, Hungary, UAE, Iran, Republic of Guinea, Tunisia, Armenia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Republika Srpska ( Entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina), Lebanon, Myanmar, Pakistan, Mongolia, Bahrain, Montenegro, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Gabon, San Marino and Ghana with Ghana becoming the 31st country globally and the 5th state on the African continent to approve the Sputnik V vaccine.

On February 19, 2021, the Africa Vaccine Acquisition TaskTeam, set up by the African Union to acquire additional vaccine doses so that Africa can attain a target immunization of 60% is pleased to advise that it has received an offer of 300 million Sputnik V vaccines from the Russian Federation. This includes a financing package for any member states wishing to secure this vaccine.

Chughtai Lab in Pakistan has officially announced that they are expecting the arrival of the Sputnik V vaccine, making Pakistan one of the first countries to commercialize & market shots privately.

There are now over 1.2 billion doses that have been pre-ordered by over 50 countries and the Sputnik vaccine looks like it will be one of the most widely-used vaccines in the world.

Supplies for the global market will be produced by RDIF partners in India, China, Brazil, South Korea as well as other countries and the vaccine will be sold to the international market at less than $10 per dose.

The Chinese SinoPharm & Sinovac vaccine

Sinopharm announced on 30 December 2020 that phase three trials of the vaccine showed that it was 79% effective, lower than that of Pfizer and Moderna. However, the United Arab Emirates, which approved a Sinopharm vaccine in January said the vaccine was 86% effective, according to interim results of its phase three trial. The Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is one of the people to be injected with a CNBG COVID-19 vaccine including two of the country’s top ministers. Other countries to approve the Sinopharm vaccine are Bahrain, Jordan, the Philippines, Seychelles, Hungary, Morocco, Serbia and Pakistan.

In January, Serbia received a million doses of Chinese Sinopharm’s COVID-19 vaccine, becoming the first European country to use Chinese vaccines for its mass rollout. In the same month, Hungary became the first European Union country to approve China’s Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine.

Furthermore, China has gifted Pakistan 500,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine which was approved by Pakistan and is used for the vaccination drive in the country that started on February 2, 2021. 

Jordanian Prime Minister Bisher al-Khasawneh and several other members of the government have received Sinopharm’s doses previously. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte also praised Chinese-made vaccines, claiming that they are as good as the shots developed by the Americans and the Europeans. 

Sinopharm’s vaccine is also undergoing phase III testing in Egypt, Argentina and other countries, so they are likely to be among the next to consider approving it

Another Chinese Vaccine which is quite similar to the Sinopharm is the Corona Vac vaccine made by Sinovac and has an efficacy rate of over 50 percent as suggested by Brazil’s final-stage trials. Experts consider this result to be good enough since almost all the trial participants in Brazil were high-risk medical workers, and the 77.96 efficacy for mild-case protection means the vaccine will reduce the number of people needing hospitalization by 78 percent.

Several Asian countries including Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines have signed deals with Sinovac, and in January 2021, Indonesia began rolling out its mass vaccination campaign with their coronavirus vaccine. 

Turkey has approved the Sinovac vaccine for emergency use. Turkey’s Health Minister Fahrettin Koca received the first dose of the CoronaVac vaccine on live television, becoming the first person in Turkey to receive the vaccine. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has also received the first dose of Sinovac’s COVID-19 vaccine CoronaVac and more than 250,000 Turkish people have been vaccinated in Turkey so far. 

Ukraine signed an agreement on Monday with Sinovac to purchase 5 million doses of CoronaVac vaccine, which is so far the only supplier to Ukraine. Algeria decided to purchase the Chinese coronavirus vaccine, and the first batch will arrive at the end of this month, according to China Central Television. The company is also known to have secured other deals with Brazil and Chile.

Sinovac will be able to produce 300 million doses a year in its newly built 20,000 square metre production plant, as stated by the chairman in an interview with media outlet CGTN. Like all the other vaccines, it requires two doses, which means it is currently only able to inoculate 150m people a year which equals just over a tenth of China’s population.

At least 17 countries have purchased COVID-19 vaccines developed by Chinese developers including Sinovac, Sinopharm and Cansino, according to the Global Times calculation.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine

In August 2020, AstraZeneca began phase 3 trials in Brazil, South Africa, and the United States. These trials were halted in September when a study volunteer developed a rare spinal inflammatory disorder called transverse myelitis. The trials were restarted a week later in Brazil and the United Kingdom.

In late October, the FDA authorized the U.S. trial to resume. In mid-November, company officials said their vaccine had produced a strong immune response in a clinical trial that involved people over the age of 70. Data released on December 8 indicated that the vaccine was safe but only about 70 percent effective.

In early February, company officials announced that phase 3 clinical trial results showed that their vaccine was 82 percent effective after 12 weeks. They further added that the vaccine was 100 percent effective in preventing severe disease, hospitalization, and death. They also noted that the vaccine achieved up to 67 percent efficacy in preventing disease transmission.

A few days later, South Africa officials suspended plans to inoculate their front-line healthcare workers because clinical trials indicated the AstraZeneca vaccine wasn’t effective in preventing mild to moderate illness with the COVID-19 variant now dominant in that country.

In mid-February, the World Health Organization approved an emergency use authorization for the AstraZeneca vaccine to be distributed worldwide, using its COVAX initiative, which is a global program to vaccinate people in poor and middle-income countries against the coronavirus. It aims to deliver at least two billion free vaccine doses by the end of 2021 to cover 20 percent of the most vulnerable people in more than 90 nations across the globe, with Pakistan being one of the countries to receive 17 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the first half of the year 2021. 

CanSino Biologics.

The last vaccine on this list is another Chinese anti-virus vaccine developed by  Cansino Biologics, Inc & the Beijing Institute of Biotechnology. This vaccine has not been approved yet but is currently under phase 3 trial in Pakistan. 

The Government-run National Institute of Health (NIH) will be leading the trial for the candidate Ad5-nCoV along with pharmaceutical company AJM, which is the local representative of CanSino and The study will be conducted across major medical research centers located in Karachi, Islamabad and Lahore. Pakistan will be entitled to receive 20 million doses of the vaccine after the completion of successful trails and positive results. 

China has already approved the vaccine in June 2020 for use by its military after early & mid-stage trials. Further, late-stage trials are being lined up for Mexico,  Saudi Arabia and Russia. CanSino made a statement that it is currently in talks for opportunities to launch Phase 3 trials of the vaccine in Brazil and Chile.

COVID-19 Vaccine Side Effects: 

The Coronavirus Vaccines have been tested and proven to be safe, yet minor side effects can occur that typically last for just a few days. A side effect is not always a bad sign, it may indicate that the body is building immunity against the virus.

The common side effects of the Covid vaccine include:

  • Pain at the site of the injection
  • Painful, swollen lymph nodes in the arm where the vaccine was injected
  • Tiredness
  • Headache
  • Muscle or joint aches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever or chills.

How to Register for Coronavirus Vaccination in Pakistan?

Coronavirus vaccine registration Pakistan will follow an eight-step process as outlined by the NCOC. The strategy was developed after consultation with all the provinces and relevant stakeholders. This plan strictly follows established international health guidelines.

In order to register for the Corona Vaccination in Pakistan, the NCOC has created the following guidelines:

  • Send your CNIC number to the Sehat Tahaffuz helpline 1166 through SMS or the NIMS website nims.nadra.gov.pk
  • The system will verify your address and confirm registration and you will be sent details of your designated AVC along with a unique PIN code. If the designated AVC is outside your current tehsil, you can change it through the NIMS web portal or by calling 1166 helpline within five days of receiving the first SMS
  • Once the vaccine arrives at your centre, you will be contacted for an appointment for vaccination
  • After confirmation and registration, you will have to take your original CNIC and PIN code to the centre on the appointed day
  • Your CNIC and PIN code will be verified by the staff at the vaccination centre 
  • After verification, you will receive the COVID-19 vaccine
  • Vaccine staff will enter your details in NIMS and a confirmation message will be sent to you through SMS
  • You will have to remain at the AVC for 30 minutes for post-inoculation monitoring for any adverse effects

A dashboard will be created in real-time to update government health departments at the district, provincial and federal levels.

Precautions for the Covid-19 Vaccine: 

If you plan to get a coronavirus vaccine in the near future, make sure you have not received any other kind of vaccine 14 days before or after. Any coronavirus vaccine that requires two shots may not provide proper protection until at least a few days after your second shot. Make sure to inform your healthcare provider of any allergies you have before getting the shot. You must also remain on the premises for monitoring once you receive the shot in order to make sure you do not have any adverse reactions to the vaccine.

If you get the coronavirus vaccine it is possible that signs and symptoms of COVID-19 may appear. Common signs and symptoms of COVID-19 include:

  • Fever
  • Dry Cough
  • Fatigue or Tiredness
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

Other symptoms may include:

  • Muscle aches
  • Chills
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Headache
  • Chest pain
  • Pink eye (conjunctivitis)

The severity of COVID-19 symptoms ranges from mild to severe and different people can experience different symptoms. This depends upon various factors such as immunity, underlying health condition, age, etc. Some people may not experience any symptoms at all yet can still be carrying the COVID-19 virus. If you have any doubt regarding coming in contact with a COVID patient or have experienced any of the above-mentioned symptoms yourself, it is highly recommended that you consult a health specialist as soon as possible.To book an appointment with the top-rated health experts in Pakistan, make sure to use https://oladoc.com/ and avail up to 50% discounts on your appointments.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are intended to raise awareness about common health issues and should not be viewed as sound medical advice for your specific condition. You should always consult with a licensed medical practitioner prior to following any suggestions outlined in this article or adopting any treatment protocol based on the contents of this article.

Dr. Maroof Vaince - Author Dr. Maroof Vaince is a Internal Medicine Specialist, General Physician and Consultant Physician. Dr. Maroof Vaince is among the Best Internal Medicine Specialist in Faisalabad. He has a M.B.B.S. and F.C.P.S. degree along with an experience of 12 years. He is also a member of Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) and its pmdc number is 51472-P. Dr. Maroof Vaince practices as a Internal Medicine Specialist at Saad Surgimed Hospital and Online Video Consultation and charges 1200 and 1000 respectively.
Neprhrologist in Karachi