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Pakistani Military Plane Travels To China For SinoPharm COVID-19 Vaccine

The plane is expected to return to Pakistan with 500,000 doses of the Chinese-produced SinoPharm vaccine. (file photo)

A Pakistani military plane left for China on January 31 to pick up a first batch of the SinoPharm coronavirus vaccine ahead of a planned mass inoculation campaign scheduled to begin during the week ahead.

The plane is expected to return to Pakistan with 500,000 doses of the Chinese-produced vaccine as promised by authorities in Beijing.

Pakistan's mass inoculation campaign puts health workers first in line to receive the Chinese vaccine. At least 400,000 health workers have registered for vaccination.

Pakistan's Health Ministry announced late on January 30 that the country has also secured 17 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine produced by the British-Swedish pharmaceutical company.

Planning Minister Asad Umar said the international vaccine-sharing alliance Covax confirmed that delivery of the AstraZeneca vaccine would start in February. He said six million doses are expected to be received by March.

The Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) has already approved the vaccines manufactured by SinoPharm, AstraZeneca and the Russian-produced Sputnik V.

A recent survey by Gallup Pakistan suggested that nearly half of Pakistanis may refuse a COVID-19 vaccine as they consider the coronavirus threat to be exaggerated.

Pakistan had reported its first coronavirus case on February 26 and is now among the 15 countries worst affected around the world.

The country has so far reported 544,813 cases of COVID-19 and 11,657 Covid-related deaths.

Based on reporting by Reuters and dpa