Pakistan will begin its COVID-19 inoculation drive next week, authorities say, with frontline health workers to be the first to receive jabs.
The January 27 announcement was made by Asad Umar, who oversees Pakistan's efforts to stem the coronavirus pandemic.
Beijing has pledged to donate 500,000 doses of coronavirus vaccine made by the Chinese state-owned firm SinoPharm. The first batch is expected to be flown to Pakistan by January 31.
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said in a news conference on January 21 that the Chinese vaccine is being gifted to Islamabad as a “goodwill gesture” from Beijing “in view of the all-weather strategic relationship” between the two countries.
Qureshi said Islamabad expects Beijing to donate a further 1 million vaccine doses in the near future.
Islamabad has so far approved two vaccines for emergency use, one made by SinoPharm and the other by Oxford-AstraZeneca. Pakistani officials say Russia's Sputnik V vaccine is also likely to get similar approval.
Ghazna Khalid, a member of the government task force on COVID-19, said that Pakistan, a country of 220 million people, would procure vaccines from various markets.
"There's going to be an accumulation of vaccines, a consortium available. There’s going to be Chinese vaccines, there's going to be AstraZeneca," she said. "We are the fifth-biggest country in the world, and it's going to be very difficult to immunize."
Pakistan reported 1,563 new coronavirus infections and 74 deaths on January 27, taking the total number of cases to more than 537,477, with 11,450 deaths.