China has agreed to supply coronavirus vaccines to Pakistan to conduct tests. If the results prove effective, Pakistan will ensure its most vulnerable segment of the population — elderly, health-care workers and people with medical conditions associated with serious cases of COVID-19 — are vaccinated, as per a report in The Wall Street Journal.
According to the publication, officials said that the supplies, once proven effective and safe, will be used to vaccinate close to one-fifth of the country’s population according to the agreement.
The WSJ said that it is one of the first agreements China has reached with any country to test its coronavirus vaccine in populations outside its borders.
Officials also said that Pakistan was also negotiating with a second Chinese company to conduct trials of its vaccine in the country.
“China hasn’t been a major vaccine producer globally. It needs to test its COVID-19 vaccines outside its borders because coronavirus cases in China have dwindled and it is harder to find the population diversity required,” read the report.
The publication reported that the state-owned China National Pharmaceutical Group, commonly known as Sinopharm, has teamed up with Karachi University’s International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences to hold the trials in Pakistan.
“Pakistan would get the vaccine on a priority basis,” an official involved in forging the agreement told the Wall Street Journal. However, the official clarified that the financial terms of the deal are yet to be finalised.
The newspaper reported that Pakistan will conduct Phase 1 trials of the vaccine and then move rapidly to the final stage Phase 3 trial. The final phase would require tens of thousands of volunteers.
According to the newspaper, China has developed three coronavirus vaccines which are in the Phase 3 trials, all of them relying on hte traditional inactive virus technology.
The Chinese companies are also carrying out final trials in other countries hit by COVID-19 such as the United Arab Emirates and Brazil.
The race for the coronavirus vaccines has heated up in recent weeks with Western countries also pushing their vaccines to the final trial stage. COVID-19 vaccines are currently being developed by the Oxford University and the US-based Moderna Inc.
Though Pakistan lifted the coronavirus lockdown a few days ago, government officials have urged masses to implement COVID-19 SOPs and precautionary measures in order to thwart a second wave of the virus.
The National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) had announced last week that the coronavirus lockdown would be relaxed further, with markets, shopping malls, cinemas, dine-in restaurants, salons, gyms, eateries and other businesses reopening across the country, including major cities such as Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar, and Quetta.