Karachi, Pakistan (Reuters)-Thousands of Pakistanis scrambled to accept the first round of commercial sales of the COVID-19 vaccine starting over the weekend. Vaccination sites in the southern city of Karachi said on Sunday that they were sold out.
Pakistan is currently providing free vaccines to frontline medical workers and people over the age of 50, but so far this process has been slow. The country last month allowed the private sector to provide commercial imports to the general public.
In the first round, two shots of the Russian Sputnik Type V were sold to the public at a price of two doses per pack, priced at approximately 1
Despite the high price paid, many centers that provide shooting services have long queues, and some in Karachi have been waiting for nearly three hours. Most of the queues are young Pakistanis who are still not eligible for the government’s free vaccination.
After shooting at a high-end private hospital in Karachi, 34-year-old Saad Ahmed told Reuters on Sunday: “I am very happy to get it because it is now necessary for travel.”
Although private sales of vaccines have begun, the government and importers are still in trouble in price disputes.
Pakistan initially agreed to exempt the price ceiling for imported vaccines, but later cancelled the exemption and stated that it would set a maximum price.
A pharmaceutical company that had imported 50,000 doses of Sputnik V took the government to court and won an interim order allowing it to be sold until the price was determined.
Dr. Nashwa Ahmed, who was vaccinated at the Southern City Hospital of Karachi, lined up after opening the vaccine to passing customers.
Late at night, the photos lined up outside the hospital were shared on social media.
A hospital official, who asked not to be named, said that the hospital purchased 5,000 doses of Sputnik V and all the inventory had been managed or booked within two days.
The official said that companies including one of Pakistan’s largest banks have also purchased a large number of employees for vaccination.
As the country responds to a new wave of COVID-19 infections and medical institutions are quickly meeting their needs, private sales have begun.
Cabinet Minister Asad Umar said on Twitter that the current number of patients in intensive care has reached 3,568, the highest level since the beginning of the pandemic. To date, Pakistan has reported 687,908 infections and 14,778 deaths.
(1 USD = 152.9400 Pakistani rupees)
Reporting by Syed Raza Hassan; Editing by Peter Graff