- Preempting potential problems at home
As the news kept coming of the current wave of covid-19 infections continuing, the National Command and Operations Centre (NCOC) was told that Pakistan was in touch with both Chinese and Western manufacturers of vaccines for Pakistan to obtain a vaccine. While more than one vaccine has been approved in the USA and UK, where manufactures have managed to obtain approval for their formulations, Pakistan seems likely to depend on the Chinese vaccines, one developed by its National Institute of Health, the other by the Academy of Sciences, one of which is undergoing trials in Pakistan also. Initially $150 million were approved for obtaining the vaccine, but now the amount has been increased to Rs 250 million. That does not seem sufficient to take into the marketplace, especially since pharmaceutical companies are doing their best to make a profit on their investment. The government must be clear that even $250 million, inadequate as it is, is still an attractive target for the kind of scam artist that thrives under such conditions.
Apart from other considerations, Pakistan should remember that it is joining the queue too late. Western countries have already locked into production for vaccines, by having paid on speculation, paying for huge orders at a time when trials were not yet complete. Pakistan is part of the UN’s VAXX project, which seeks to produce a vaccine, or negotiate with makers for an affordable one, but it does not seem something to depend on.
At the same time, Pakistan must also be prepared for pushback against the vaccine by the kind of religious circles which were such a hurdle in the polio vaccination campaign. The spectre of pig gelatin being used to make the vaccines has already been raised in Indonesia and Singapore, and the government must ensure that such tactics are not used against whichever vaccine is adopted. The message of getting vaccinated must be put across effectively, and the means to make this meaningful must be ensured along with obtaining a vaccine. The government must realize that its problems have not been solved by the development of several vaccines, they have just become different.