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Senate passes resolution for cheap, free Covid-19 vaccine





A resolution urging the private sector to offer the Covid-19 vaccine for free or at a reduced price was passed in the Senate on Monday by a majority vote.

Senator Kamran Murtaza, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI), introduced the resolution in the House which declared that citizens of all countries were either vaccinated for free or at a fixed rate of 1500 rupees. On the other hand, observed the senator, the price of the vaccine against the coronavirus has been set at Rs8,400 in Pakistan.

“The government has failed to vaccinate the population,” lamented the JUI lawmaker, adding that “vaccination should be free or prices should be reduced.”

In response to the resolution, House Leader Dr Shahzad Waseem said the virus was not a political issue and urged political parties to refrain from making one.

Read Pakistan to develop its own coronavirus vaccine, NA said

“This is not a resolution but a baseless accusation sheet against the government,” Waseem said, adding that the national discourse must reflect the national interest.

He added that neither the protest policy nor any other threat can prevent Prime Minister Imran Khan from leaving his mission.

Senator Wasim also called on the opposition parties to work together on reforms and hoped the opposition would play a positive role in the House. The senator noted that issues related to Covid-19 were not limited to the government or the opposition, but were a matter of survival for the whole country.

However, criticizing the Covid response from the government of the day, Senator Sherry Rehman of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) said the Covid-19 vaccine was provided free worldwide, but the price was set here.

She also asked the government how many vaccines it has acquired from other countries.

The decision to reduce the price of the coronavirus vaccine or provide a free vaccination was approved by a majority vote.

Read more One million Sinopharm vaccines distributed to federating units, NCOC says

Thousands of Pakistanis rushed to get vaccinated in the first round of commercial Covid-19 vaccine sales that began over the weekend, vaccination sites in Karachi said on Sunday April 4 that they were already sold out .

While the private sale of vaccines has started, the government and importers are still stuck in a price dispute.

The first round saw the commercial sale of the Russian two-shot Sputnik V to the general public for around 12,000 Pakistani rupees ($ 80) for a two-dose package.

Vaccine prices

On March 21, the federal cabinet decided to cap the maximum retail price of Russian and Chinese Covid vaccine injections, imported by the private sector amid a sharp increase in coronavirus cases and in the absence of a program to broader government funded vaccination.

Cabinet approval came with the release of the Health Ministry summary. It came on the day PM Imran tested positive for Covid-19, said Dr Faisal Sultan, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister for Health (SAPM).

The government has set the maximum selling price of Russian Sputnik V vaccine at Rs 8,449 for two doses and Chinese convidecia at Rs 4,225 per injection, the National Ministry of Health Services and Regulatory summary showed.

The Drug Pricing Committee of the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) had proposed the ceiling price for two vaccines – the GAM-Covid-Vac solution of Sputnik V, manufactured by the FSBI NF Gamalaya RCEM of the Russian Ministry of Health and the vaccine Convidecia, manufactured by CanSino Biologics Inc.

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