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AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine became the first vaccine against novel coronavirus to get approval for emergency use in Pakistan, reported Reuters quoting an official.

"DRAP granted emergency use authorisation to AstraZeneca's COVID vaccine," Pakistan's Health Minister Faisal Sultan told Reuters, referring to the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan.

Pakistan is in the process of speaking to a number of vaccine makers, but this is the first local approval.

Sultan also added that the country could get "in the range of tens of millions" of vaccine doses under an agreement with China's vaccine candidate CanSinoBio.

Efficacy is a key factor, said Sultan. "We have and are watching the evolving stories around efficacy of a number of vaccines."

The vaccine company's Ad5-nCoV COVID-19 candidate is currently nearing completion of phase III clinical trials in Pakistan.

Earlier, according to reports, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan said the government was confident of acquiring the anti-COVID vaccine by the first quarter of this year but is adopting a ‘look-before-you-leap’ strategy to ensure procurement of medicine of the highest efficacy.

“Our target is to procure the vaccine in the first quarter of the current year, and we are confident of doing so. But it is quite difficult to say on which date we will acquire the vaccine," he was quoted as saying by the Dawn newspaper on Friday.

He said trials of the vaccine produced by the Chinese firm, Cansino, were near completion and if its tests were found to be successful, the government would register the medicine with the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap) for procurement.

“As 100 per cent population cannot be vaccinated in any country, we need to target 70 per cent of the vaccine-able population, which is 70 million," he said.

He said that in the first phase, two categories of people would be administered the vaccine - the frontline healthcare workers and people over 65 years of age.

“We believe procurement of vaccine for the second phase will start in May as we have been negotiating with five Russian and western companies," he said, adding that, around 10 million people will be vaccinated in the first two phases, while the remaining 60 million in the third phase.

Meanwhile, Pakistan's coronavirus tally on Saturday reached 516,770 after 2,432 new infections were detected in the last 24 hours, the health ministry said.

Forty five people died of the disease, taking the total number of COVID-19 fatalities to 10,908, according to the ministry of National Health Services.

A total of 472,099 people have recovered, while there are 33,763 active patients.

The authorities have performed a total 7,326,431 tests, including 42,422 tests in the last 24 hours, registering a positivity rate of 5.73 per cent.

With agency inputs

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