Pakistan has received its first doses of the coronavirus vaccine, with China donating half a million doses of the Sinopharm vaccine to the country. The vaccination process will begin on today (Wednesday) with the frontline health workers will be the first to receive the shots, for which the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) has established vaccine centres across the country.

Sinopharm, a Chinese state-owned company, has developed one of two major Chinese vaccines to have been rolled out around the globe, alongside Sinovac’s Coronavac vaccine.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday evening oversaw the start of Pakistan's coronavirus vaccination campaign, with the first jab administered to a doctor in Islamabad.

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PM Imran Khan urged all healthcare workers to get the vaccine, saying they were most at risk. He also appealed to the public to follow the Covid-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs) and wear a mask.

Speaking at a ceremony to mark the launch of the drive, the premier congratulated his government's health team for moving rapidly to secure the vaccine and thanked China for donating 500,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine to Pakistan. He reiterated that the vaccine will be first administered to health workers working with Covid-19 patients, followed by the elderly in the high-risk age group.

He said "This (vaccine) is being distributed equitably among all the provinces so no one thinks we've provided more of it to one province". 

However, The coronavirus pandemic in Pakistan, a country of about 220 million people, is relatively under control. The South Asian nation detected the outbreak nearly a year ago and has since documented more than 543,000 confirmed COVD-19 cases, with close to 12,000 deaths.

Besides the Sinopharm vaccine, the government has also approved the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and Russia's Sputnik V shot for emergency use in Pakistan.

In addition to the doses from China, Pakistan has also secured supply of 17 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine through COVAX, a global initiative by the Gavi vaccine alliance, Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), the World Health Organization, and others. Also, Up to 6.8 million doses of those vaccines are due to arrive in Pakistan before the end of March.