Something finally went great in the year 2020, when the UK became the first country to approve Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine in the last week of November 2020. With the mass vaccination programs all set to be rolled out in a week, humans look like winning this battle with the COVID-19 for the first time since the pandemic began. However, challenges are far from ever, even post-successful development of the COVID-19 vaccine. The race of who gets it first has already started, and there is no point in mincing the words about the position of developing countries like Pakistan in this race. However, all is not as gloomy as it might appear, there is hope! And it is this hope that we expound on in this discussion, in some detail!
The timeline of coronavirus vaccine development
Always good to have an overview of things, the background that helps us understand how we reached the current point. And while this discussion is predominantly about Pfizer’s vaccine, we must not overlook the good work done by some other pharmaceutical companies as well. Which other competitors are claiming the market? Well, Russia’s Sputnik-V vaccine is claiming to be 92 percent effective. This viral vector vaccine is developed by Gamaleya. Moderna’s RNA vaccine is about 95 percent effective while Oxford University’s AstraZeneca is a viral vector vaccine with effectiveness significantly lower than the aforementioned numbers.
The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine
The Pfizer BNT 162b2 vaccine has stolen the show so far, and in this section, we talk a bit about it how works. As mentioned before, this is an RNA vaccine, which means that it has messenger RNA molecules. These molecules are going to mimic the novel coronavirus’s spike proteins, thereby tricking the immune system into producing the much-needed antibodies against the virus. Now, Pfizer’s vaccine has grabbed the headlines primarily because of the numbers that reflect diverse testing. 42 percent global, 30 percent US population made the subjects of the clinical trials in which this vaccine was administered. The vaccine is about 95 percent effective, as per the data released by Pfizer.
Where does Pakistan stand in this race?
We now come to the point around which this whole debate revolves. What is the news about third world countries like Pakistan and the coronavirus vaccine? Well, as per the recent reports, the government of Pakistan has allocated 150 million dollars for purchasing the novel coronavirus vaccine. However, that is not all that matters in this bid for the vaccine. The manufacturing capacity of the company matters, as well as the policies defined by the international regulatory bodies. So, when experts say that Pakistan is not likely to get Pfizer’s vaccine at least till the second half of 2021, it is not hopeless ranting. Rather, it is a statement made while remaining cognizant of the bitter ground realities.
Managing things is going to be tough!
It is going to be tough, primarily because of the lack of cold storage facilities that the Pfizer vaccine requires. The required temperature for the storage of this vaccine is -70 degrees, as per the data issued by Pfizer. In developing countries like Pakistan, there is no chain of cold storage systems, the infrastructure simply doesn’t exist as of now. This is exactly the reason why Pakistani government officials are not too excited about the Pfizer vaccine. Also, there aren’t any massive immunization centers in the country where people could come and get a shot of the vaccine. Yes, people will have to go for the vaccine since it becomes administrable in 90 minutes!
Dr.Atta Ur Rahman’s view on Pfizer in Pakistan
Dr.Atta heads the task force for science and technology in the country, and he is not exactly too hopeful about the Pfizer vaccine either. His reasons are the same as what we have talked about in the previous section. In Dr.Atta’s opinion, the Chinese vaccine made by CanSinoBio is a much more suitable candidate for the Pakistani population. This is exactly the reason why fiver trial sites are operating with this vaccine in the country, including AKU, SKMH, and UHS.
Just a quick word on how this vaccine is different from the Pfizer vaccine. Well, this is a viral vector vaccine in which adenovirus is used. The virus is modified using recombinant technology, a gene from the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 is inserted into the virus. Once the spike proteins are produced, the stimulation of immune response occurs, and enough B and T cells are produced which can fight the virus in the future as well. No major side effects were observed in the trials apart from fever and soreness at the injection site. More information can be shared on this subject only once the phase three clinical trials are completed, but things are promising.
So, is Pfizer really coming to Pakistan?
Well, taking all the things into perspective, it really seems as if Pakistan will go for the Chinese vaccine currently. However, that is a strategy at the government level which is still under consideration. If the cold chain facilities can be established within a short span of time, one can still be hopeful for the success of the Pfizer vaccine in the country. But a lot of good work needs to be done in a very short time before one can be really hopeful about the Pfizer vaccine’s arrival in the country. Pakistan has not finalized any contracts yet either, so the future remains a bit uncertain for now.
Conclusion – Pfizer in Pakistan
If the Asian countries like Pakistan go for a more targeted immunization approach, there is a chance that the Pfizer vaccine will be the most suitable candidate since it is already authorized by the UK and USA governments. By targeted approach, we mean vaccine on priority for frontline workers e.g. healthcare professionals. But all in all, one can safely assume that the good is finally beginning to dominate the evil and that 2021 appears to be a much more promising year than the gloomy and doomy 2020!
Related Article: Is Moderna Vaccine Coming to Pakistan?