Pakistan close to approving Russia's Sputnik vaccine as Covid cases rise

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan
Pakistan is close to granting approval to Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, as the world’s fifth most-populous nation looks to start inoculations against the coronavirus.

The country’s technical committee has cleared and recommended the vaccine to the drug registration board that is considering Sputnik’s application, said Akhtar Abbas Khan, spokesperson for Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan.

“Before issuing a letter...some administration process is left and then we can say,” he said.

Concern is mounting over the growing vaccine disparity between rich and poor nations, which the World Health Organization’s director-general has called a “catastrophic moral failure.” Pakistan is not among the 55 nations that have started administering shots, according to data collected by Bloomberg.

The South Asian country has already ordered 1.2 million doses from Chinese state-backed vaccine developer Sinopharm, with deliveries to start Jan. 31. It has also given approval to AstraZeneca Plc’s shot for private use.

CanSino Biologics Inc. has also offered 20 million shots to Pakistan as it gets ready to release efficacy results “in a few days” from recently-completed Phase III trials, according to its local partner.

Controversy has swirled around Sputnik V since Russian President Vladimir Putin announced its registration for use before large-scale clinical studies were completed. Its developers have since said that an interim analysis of final-stage studies indicated it was more than 91% effective after volunteers received two doses. United Arab Emirates and Hungary approved the Russian vaccine in the past week.

The Kremlin is seeking to promote the Russian vaccine as a cheap, effective defense against the coronavirus through the two dose vaccine that needs to be taken three weeks apart.

Pakistan is currently being hit by a second wave of infections that caused a peak in hospitalizations and deaths last month. The outbreak has infected about 530,000 and killed over 11,000.

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