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Pakistan approves Russia’s Sputnik-V COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use

FILE PHOTO: Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Buenos Aires

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Russia’s Sputnik-V has become the third COVID-19 vaccine to be approved by Pakistan for emergency use after China’s Sinopharm and the ones developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, the country’s health minister said on Tuesday.

“Sputnik has received EUA (emergency use authorisation),” the minister, Faisal Sultan, told Reuters in a text message.

A nation of 220 million, Pakistan has become 22nd country to approve Sputnik V, said a statement from Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), responsible for marketing the vaccine abroad.

The Russian vaccine is administered in two shots, three weeks apart, has a six-month shelf life and is stored at -18 Celsius, according to an official document on the vaccine’s authorisation.

The authorisation to M/s AGP Ltd, Karachi as sole proprietor of the RDIF is valid till April 1, 2021, the document said, adding it was for immunisation of individuals above 18 years of age.

A fourth vaccine candidate, developed by CanSino Biologics Inc (CanSinoBIO), has also completed clinical trials in the South Asian nation of 220 million people, showing 65.7% efficacy in symptomatic cases and a 90.98% success rate in severe cases in an interim analysis of global trials, Sultan said on Monday.

He said its efficacy in the Pakistani subset at preventing symptomatic cases was 74.8%. It was 100% for preventing severe disease.

CanSinoBio’s single-dose regimen and normal refrigerator storage requirement could make it a favourable option for many countries.

AJ Pharma led CanSinoBIO’s trial to import the vaccine vials initially before filling them in Pakistan, the first company to do so locally.

Sultan said Pakistan could get shots “in the range of tens of millions” under an agreement with the Chinese firm.

Pakistan has rolled out a vaccination drive with 500,000 doses of Sinopharm donated by longtime ally China, giving shots to frontline health workers as a priority.

Pakistan has also secured 17 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine under a global scheme to deliver coronavirus treatments to developing nations.

(Reporting by Asif Shahzad; Additional Reporting by Polina Ivanova in Moscow; Editing by Gareth Jones and Ed Osmond)

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