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Pakistan likely to get updated Pfizer COVID shots as new variant spreads

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  • COVID-19 jabs would be used to vaccinate high-risk groups.
  • New formula effective against currently circulating variants.
  • “We believe Saudi authorities will require vaccination,” says official.

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is likely to receive 500,000 doses of Pfizer’s new COVID-19 vaccine (2023-24 formula) in January 2024 amid a global surge in cases as the new JN.1 variant spreads around the world, The News reported on Monday.

The COVID-19 jabs would be used to vaccinate high-risk groups, including pilgrims before embarking on the Hajj pilgrimage, officials said on Sunday.

But before vaccinating people with the newly-developed vaccine in Pakistan, the authorities need to get a fresh Emergency Use Authorisation (EUA) from the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap) as the newly-developed vaccine by Pfizer has not been approved or licensed by the United States’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but has only been authorised for emergency use by them, they added.

“We are going to get 200,000 doses of Pfizer’s new COVID-19 vaccine (2023-24 formula) from the US in the next few days. This new formula is effective against the currently circulating variants including Omicron and its sub-variants. In addition, we would get 300,000 more doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine from COVAX, an international initiative to provide Covid vaccines to people around the world,” an official of the National Institute of Health (NIH), Islamabad told The News.

The number of new COVID-19 cases increased by 52% during the 28-day period from November 20 to December 17, 2023 as compared to the previous 28-day period, with over 850,000 new cases reported during that time, the World Health Organisation (WHO) reported last week after it declared JN.1 sub-variant of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 as Variant of Interest (VOI).

However, the officials in the NIH Islamabad and provincial health facilities in Lahore and Karachi said they had not yet detected JN.1 sub-variant in Pakistan as COVID-19 positivity was quite low and less than 1% but added that in order to prevent pilgrims from contracting the new COVID-19 variants, they needed the new vaccine.

“We believe that Saudi authorities will require vaccination against COVID-19 with new mRNA vaccine developed by Pfizer or other companies authorised by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before allowing pilgrims to enter their territory for Haj,” the NIH official added.

He maintained that all the previous vaccines, including Pfizer or Chinese Sinopharm and Sinovac, will either be consumed or expired by November 2023 and added that at the moment, Pakistan has no stock of any COVID-19 vaccine.

On the other hand, Pakistani authorities will have to acquire ‘Emergency Use Authorisation’ for Pfizer’s newly-developed Covid-19 vaccine from the Drap as Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 Vaccine (2023-2024 Formula) has not been approved or licensed by the FDA, another health official said.

According to Pfizer, its Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine (2023-2024 Formula) has been authorised for emergency use by the FDA under an Emergency Use Authorisation to prevent Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) for use in individuals aged between six months to 11 years of age.

“Drap accepts FDA’s EUA as such, so no problem in term of its use in Pakistan. Drap will just require a formal request for it along with the FDA certification,” the official said, adding that either the NIH or Federal Directorate of Immunisation (FDI) or in the case of Pfizer, their local representative or authorised supplier could submit a formal request for the Emergency Use Authorisation for the vaccine.

Regarding its use for children aged between six months to 11 years, the official claimed that a vaccine suitable for this age would work for adults as well. Meanwhile, ages below 12 years are considered sensitive as their immune system is still evolving, he added.

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US envoy urges deeper strengthening of relations with Pakistan

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The significance of strengthening relations with Pakistan was highlighted by US Ambassador Donald Blome on Thursday.

Blome visited the Chaukhandi cemetery in Karachi, based on the information. President Donald Blome and other delegates were cordially welcomed by Sindh Minister of Culture and Tourism Syed Zulfiqar Ali Shah on this particular occasion.

Narendra Kumar, Heather Murphy, and Zahra Hajiani were among the delegation members who visited Chaukhandi Graveyard’s historic tombs with the American envoy, Acting Consul General Jimmy Mauldin.

Highlighting the rich historical significance of Chaukhandi graveyard, Minister Zulfiqar Ali Shah shared his ideas with the US ambassador.

Blome highlighted the Chaukhandi tombs for their exquisite craftsmanship and architectural design. He promised to help Pakistani visitors with their visa requirements.

According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (Unesco), he promised to promote the nation’s historical sites.

In the meantime, Shah stated, “The Sindh government is taking steps to provide all sorts of facilities to the tourists.”

Pakistan will receive additional assistance from the US to lower methane gas emissions.

The US decided to help Pakistan lower its methane gas emissions earlier this month.

At a USAID Climate Financing event, US Ambassador Blome stated: “We are working very hard to lower methane gas emissions from dairy farming. The Green Climate Fund in Pakistan will be consulted for funding this initiative.”

“As of 2030, there are global efforts to reduce the temperature by 1 degree Celsius. The US-Pakistan Green Alliance is being followed by the collaboration with Pakistan, according to Blome.

“The problems can only be addressed by providing the stakeholders with financial and technical resources,” he continued.

The government’s first aim is to revitalise the cattle industry, according to Federal Secretary Dr. Fakhre Alam. Raising dairy farming’s production capacity will help it overcome its environmental problems.”

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Shehbaz travels to the UAE in order to strengthen trade relations.

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This visit, which is being accompanied by a high-level delegation made up of important ministers such as Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Ishaq Dar, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, Commerce Minister Jam Kamal, Information Minister Ataullah Tarar, and advisor Tariq Fatemi, is intended to strengthen bilateral ties and expand cooperation between the two countries.
Prime Minister Sharif will visit President Muhammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates in Abu Dhabi. The high-level gathering will cover Pakistani and UAE bilateral relations, with an emphasis on commerce and investment.

Along with exploring strategic alliances and shared interests that can help their respective nations, they are also expected to concentrate on talking about ways to advance collaboration across a range of industries.

Prime Minister Sharif has talks planned with other Emirati leaders, businesspeople, and heads of financial organisations in addition to his diplomatic engagements. In an effort to promote economic cooperation and draw in investment, he is also scheduled to meet with businessmen and investors from Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates.

The Shehbaz intends to encourage UAE companies to extend their operations into the Pakistani market by interacting with influential businesspeople and highlighting investment prospects in Pakistan.

These exchanges will offer a forum for talking about doable ways to strengthen business relations and carry out initiatives that will benefit both parties. Pakistan’s determination to enhance its political and economic ties with the United Arab Emirates is demonstrated by the visit.

After ending his day-long journey to Iran to offer condolences for the terrible death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and his entourage in a helicopter crash on Sunday, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has returned to Pakistan.

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Memon accuses temporary government of ‘delaying’ the BRT Red Line project

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On Thursday, Sindh Minister Sharjeel Inam Memon accused the interim administration of “delaying” the Red Line project of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT).

Memon stated what he thought, saying, “The BRT Red Line project was mission impossible. However, the project has now begun to be worked on.”

“The reason government is formed is to solve the issues that the people face. “The government is working tirelessly to bring relief to the masses,” he declared.

Memon declared, “It’s also being done about the unlawful bus stands. The passengers will have access to shuttle service from us.”

“A large number of transport projects have already begun. “We aim to ensure that every individual receives a chance to work,” he continued.

Pakistan was ‘started to damage’ by the founder of PTI.

Memon reported on Thursday that a campaign to hurt the nation was started by the founder of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

Memon said at a Karachi event: “Israel discusses the human rights violations in Pakistan. Israel, a party to the Palestinian holocaust, is endorsing the PTI’s founder. Israel has provided election funding to the PTI’s founder.”

“The worst election tampering in 2018 produced the PTI founder’s victory. Police officers, the parliament, and the PTV were all attacked,” he claimed.

“The entire country was closed due to a 126-day protest,” Memon claimed.

The PTI founder was made fun of by Memon, who said, “The PTI founder had always embraced the politics of anarchy.”

Memon stated the following when discussing the state of law and order in Sindh: “The Sindh government is serious about the state of law and order in the province. In terms of keeping Sindh peaceful, everyone is in agreement.”

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