China will provide 500,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines to Pakistan by January 31, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said on Thursday. Qureshi issued a video message after a phone call with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, stating that Beijing asked Islamabad to send an airplane to get the vaccines.
"I want to give the nation the good news that China has promised to immediately provide 500,000 doses of vaccine to Pakistan by January 31," Qureshi said.
"They (China) have said you can send your airplane and immediately airlift this drug,” he said.
He said that the first batch of the vaccine would be free and come in the shape of “grant assistance" which was a gesture of “goodwill and friendship that China has extended towards us and I am grateful to them”.
Qureshi also tweeted that Pakistan will get China’s Sinopharm vaccine which was already approved by the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan.
The foreign minister said that Pakistan requires at least 1.1 million doses and China agreed to provide that by the end of February.
"We want to assure Pakistan that our cooperation with you will continue," the minister quoted Wang as saying.
The possibility of production and manufacturing in Pakistan of CanSino Biologics firm’s vaccine was also discussed. Its trials have been going on in Pakistan in collaboration with China.
Pakistan has also approved the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for emergency use but it is not known when it will be available.
The development came as 2,363 new cases of COVID-19 and 54 deaths were reported across the country over the last 24 hours, according to the ministry of National Health Services.
It reported that the number of total cases reached 527,146, while 480,696 have so far recovered from the disease.
As many as 11,157 people have died.
India on Tuesday said it will send COVID-19 vaccines under grant assistance to Bhutan, the Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and Seychelles from Wednesday and supplies to Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Mauritius will commence after confirmation of necessary regulatory clearances.
Bhutan and the Maldives on Wednesday became the first two countries to receive COVID-19 vaccines sent by India under grants assistance in sync with its 'neighbourhood first' policy.