Pakistan approves Russia's Sputnik-V COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Russia’s Sputnik-V has become the third COVID-19 vaccine to be approved by Pakistan for emergency use after China’s Sinopharm and the one developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, the country’s health minister said on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: A shipment of doses of the Sputnik V (Gam-COVID-Vac) vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is seen after arriving at Ezeiza International Airport, in Buenos Aires, Argentina January 28, 2021. REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian

“Sputnik has received EUA (emergency use authorisation),” the minister, Faisal Sultan, told Reuters in a WhatsApp text message.

The Russian vaccine is administered in two shots, three weeks apart, has a six-month shelf life and is stored at -18 Celsius.

A fourth vaccine candidate, developed by CanSino Biologics Inc (CanSinoBIO), has also completed clinical trials in the South Asian nation of 220 million people.

CanSino trials have shown 65.7% efficacy in preventing symptomatic cases and a 90.98% success rate in stopping severe cases of the disease in an interim analysis of global trials, Sultan said on Monday.

He said its efficacy in the Pakistani subset at preventing symptomatic cases was 74.8% and was 100% for preventing severe disease.

The efficacy of the CanSino shot is based on an analysis of 30,000 participants and 101 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Pakistan, the minister said, citing an independent data monitoring committee.

CanSinoBio’s single-dose regimen and normal refrigerator storage requirement could make it a favourable option for many countries. Sultan said Pakistan could get shots “in the range of tens of millions” under an agreement with the Chinese firm.

Pakistan has already rolled out a vaccination drive with 500,000 doses of Sinopharm donated by longtime ally China, and expects to receive further donations of more than one million doses.

Frontline health workers are receiving the first of the shots as priority.

The Pakistani military has also received a separate donation of the Sinopharm vaccine from the Chinese army. The military did not say how many doses the donation comprised but said it would hand them over to the government to provide to health staff.

Pakistan has also secured 17 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine under a global scheme to deliver coronavirus treatments to developing nations.

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