Islamabad, January 1, 2024 – In response to the global surge in COVID-19 cases and the emergence of the JN.1 variant, Pakistan is gearing up to receive 500,000 doses of Pfizer’s new COVID-19 vaccine in January 2024. This vaccine is based on the 2023-24 formula and is expected to play a crucial role in the country’s efforts to combat the evolving pandemic.
The decision to acquire these doses comes as health officials prioritize vaccination for high-risk groups, including individuals planning to undertake the Hajj pilgrimage. The significance of vaccinating these high-risk groups with the updated Pfizer shots has been underscored by officials.
Pakistan to Receive 500,000 Doses of Pfizer’s New COVID-19 Vaccine in January 2024
However, there is a procedural hurdle to overcome as Pakistani authorities need to obtain a fresh Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap). This step is necessary because the new Pfizer vaccine has received emergency use authorization from the United States’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA) but has not yet secured full approval.
“We are set to receive 200,000 doses of Pfizer’s new COVID-19 vaccine (2023-24 formula) from the US shortly. This updated formula is deemed effective against the currently circulating variants, including Omicron and its sub-variants. Additionally, we expect to acquire 300,000 more doses through COVAX, an international initiative aimed at providing COVID vaccines globally,” shared an official from the National Institute of Health (NIH) in Islamabad.
As per data from the World Health Organization (WHO), there has been a 52 percent increase in new COVID-19 cases during the 28-day period from November 20 to December 17, 2023. Concerns about the JN.1 sub-variant of the Omicron variant have prompted the WHO to classify it as a Variant of Interest (VOI).
Despite relatively low COVID-19 positivity rates in Pakistan, which are currently less than 1 percent, officials from the NIH and provincial health facilities in Lahore and Karachi emphasize the need for the new vaccine to protect pilgrims from contracting evolving COVID-19 variants.
The NIH official expressed the belief that Saudi authorities may require vaccination with the updated Pfizer or other FDA-authorized vaccines for Hajj pilgrims.
It’s important to note that all previously administered vaccines, including Pfizer, Sinopharm, and Sinovac, are expected to be consumed or expired by November 2023. With Pakistan facing a vaccine stock shortage, securing the updated Pfizer doses in the coming month is of utmost urgency.