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Pakistan: Private importers rush for Russian vaccine amid high demand

dpa
Islamabad
Private importers in Pakistan are negotiating to procure more of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine for commercial sale, as customers queue to buy their shots amid frustration with the pace of the free, but slow-moving, government-run inoculation drive.
AGP Pharma, a pharmaceutical company based in the southern city of Karachi that imported 50,000 doses of Sputnik V, said on Thursday they were trying to get their hands on more.
“Our negotiations are ongoing ... things are in the pipeline and we will know in a couple of days how many more doses we may get,” company’s spokesman Umair Mukhtar told dpa.
More importers were seeking the government’s permission to import Russian jabs after a price dispute was resolved, health ministry spokesman Sajid Shah said.
Pakistan’s government last week allowed private companies to import vaccines from Russia and China but imposed a price cap on the amount that could be charged to the consumer, around 80 dollars for two doses of Sputnik V.  
The importers had earlier refused to roll out the vaccine unless they were allowed to set the price higher than the 50-dollar cap the government was demanding.
While private distributors have not been able to start purchases from China, a higher demand for that jab has pushed the price beyond 100 dollars at some private hospitals.    The 50,000 doses that AGP Pharma earlier imported were over-booked within hours, according to hospitals.
More than 700,000 people have been infected so far with more than 15,000 deaths, but an official inoculation drive is moving slow after promised supplies under the global distribution system COVAX were delayed.
Pakistan was supposed to get 17 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccines in March, but has not got the supplies so far after a production shortfall and high demand in India.
Only 1 million people, mostly health workers and elderly citizens, have been inoculated so far in the country of 216 million. Most of those shots were donated from Pakistan’s ally China.

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