Following the emergence of new Covid-19 variants globally, Pakistan has procured an additional 300,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine. Dr. Mumtaz Ali Khan, Chief of the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) at the National Institute of Health (NIH), stated to a national daily that although no country has mandated COVID-19 vaccination for travel thus far, Saudi Arabia may contemplate such a requirement due to anticipated gatherings during Ramadan and Hajj.
Dr. Khan noted that the vaccines were supplied free of charge by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in response to the Pakistani government’s request. He mentioned that there is a current demand from provinces and health facilities in the federal capital for the vaccine, which has now been arranged as planned for February.
Regarding the possibility of new coronavirus variants emerging, Dr. Khan emphasized Pakistan’s responsibility to ensure vaccine availability, stating that the country has reported cases of the new variants. He highlighted the emergence of a sub-variant of Omicron, known as JN.1, which began circulating in the United States in September last year and subsequently spread to several countries, including Pakistan. The World Health Organization (WHO) officially recognized JN.1 as a variant of interest on December 19 due to its rapid spread.