Islamabad: Pakistani health officials said the country has initiated the final stage processing of the CanSino vaccine imported in bulk from China recently. The vaccine will be available for use by the end of May.
“The first batch of bulk CanSino vaccine [is] being processed at the National Institute of Health (NIH) plant” under the supervision of specially trained health workers, said Minister Asad Umar, who heads the country’s pandemic response organisation National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC). The vaccine doses would be available for the public by the end of May after going through rigorous testing and quality control checks, he said.
Experts hope that the move would pave the way for local vaccine manufacturing - essential for the country 220 million to speed up vaccination. Dr Faisal Sultan, Pakistan’s health affairs adviser, earlier said that vaccine technology transfer agreement with China would gradually open the way for local production and significantly reduce the country’s dependence on other countries.
Process in Pakistan
The final stage CanSino vaccine processing, being conducted in Pakistan for the first time, includes formulation, sterilisation and packaging, according to the minister.
Pakistan recently received frozen bags of the vaccine from the CanSino facility in China which will now be processed into the finished vaccine and securely packaged in vials in Islamabad to produce nearly 120,000 doses of the vaccine. The vaccine would go through multiple tests during the process before being labelled and packed and then loaded into the freezers, according to experts. It will be tested again before the rollout.
Efficacy of China’s CanSino vaccine
CanSino is one of the two single-shot COVID-19 vaccines available. The vaccine trial results showed 74.8 per cent efficacy in limiting symptomatic cases and a 100 per cent success rate in preventing severe disease among Pakistanis, according to Dr Sultan. The single-dose CanSino which requires normal refrigeration raise hopes for faster rollout in developing countries where it might be hard to convince people to show up for the second shot.
The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) emergency approval to the first Chinese COVID-19 vaccine Sinopharm has raised hopes for other Eastern vaccines. The Tianjin-based CanSino Biologics Inc. has started submitting data about its immunisation to the health agency on a rolling basis, according to reports.
Urge for local production of vaccines
Pakistan has so far administered more than 3.3 million vaccine doses since February. Experts have urged the government to initiate local production of the vaccines to speed up the vaccination process. Health professionals believe the pandemic has opened the way for health transformation in Pakistan and offers the country the opportunity to develop domestic biomanufacturing capacity to make the country self-sufficient and better prepared for the future.
In April, Pakistan’s Searle Company signed an agreement with a Chinese firm Livzon Mapharm for the manufacturing transition, licensing and supply of the V-01 vaccine after the completion of phase III trials.