China's cooperation crucial in Pakistan's vaccination drive
by Misbah Saba Malik
China's vaccine cooperation is crucial in Pakistan's vaccination drive, and China always comes to help at Pakistan's time of need, as some Pakistani health officials, scholars as well as ordinary people have observed.
"Whenever Pakistan is in trouble, or there has been some crisis, China has always been forthcoming and helping Pakistan," said Abdul Rehman Tarar, a retired senior Pakistani military official who has been witnessing the Pakistan-China friendship for decades, with both countries supporting each other and firmly standing by each other.
"In the last one and a half years, people saw support and cooperation from China, though the country itself was seriously threatened by a very rapid spread of the COVID-19 pandemic," Tarar, who has also authored a book on China in his native Urdu language, told Xinhua.
Recently, Tarar has witnessed the Pakistan-China relationship reaching new heights with ordinary Pakistanis benefitting from China's vaccine donations and supplies during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pakistanis, who were in a dismal situation amid the COVID-19 pandemic, felt the true essence of the Pakistan-China friendship when their close friend China overcame its own difficulties to provide protective gear, ventilators and finally vaccines to help Pakistan fight the pandemic, said Tarar, who is among millions of Pakistanis to be inoculated with Chinese vaccines against COVID-19.
"Throughout the pandemic, when the people of Pakistan switched on the television or visited social media on their phones, they would see aircraft initially carrying protective gear and then loads of vaccines from China to Pakistan," while other countries in the West such as the United States which were supposed to be working for humanity, as they were bragging themselves to be, were seen looking inward when their own systems got challenged, he said.
Pakistan started its COVID-19 vaccination drive in February this year after receiving vaccines donated by China. With more donations from China as well as the Sinopharm, Sinovac and CanSino COVID-19 vaccines it had purchased from China, Pakistan has been immunizing its population against COVID-19.
Asad Umar, head of the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) against COVID-19, said that China's role in Pakistan's vaccination drive has been crucial because currently, all countries are vaccinating their populations and the vaccine supply is always shorter than demand.
According to the NCOC, Pakistan is inoculating around 400,000 people a day, aiming at vaccinating half a million people a day in the first phase and then one million people a day in the next phase.
The country's target to vaccinate such a large number of people is likely to be achieved mainly by China's CanSino COVID-19 vaccine, which is being rolled out locally with the support of China. The vaccine's phase-three trials were also conducted in Pakistan last year, enabling the country to join global efforts to develop a vaccine.
Talking about the CanSino COVID-19 vaccine, Umar said that it was "the first time ever in Pakistan's history that phase-three trials of any vaccine were held. We are now importing bulk vaccines from CanSino Biologics Inc., and they are being formulated and finished, sterilized and packed in Pakistan."
He said that the trials and local packaging of the vaccine in Pakistan also resulted in the "technology transfer and cooperation in the health field at a level which we have not seen earlier."
"And our hope is that we use this not as an end result, but as a foundation stone on the basis of which we build an even closer relationship and greater technology collaboration in the health sector with China," he said.
China through its donations, vaccine supplies and technology transfer to help Pakistan roll out locally packed Chinese vaccines had been "literally the major source available to us for vaccination and therefore, as they say in English, a friend in need is a friend indeed and never has need been greater than what the world has experienced since COVID-19 struck. And at the time of need China comes through for us," Umar added.
According to the NCOC, Pakistan plans to inoculate 100 million eligible people for vaccination in its total population of over 220 million by mid-2022. So far, there have been over 3.5 million fully vaccinated while over 14.6 million have been partially vaccinated.
Pakistani experts believe that China's vaccine support to the world and Pakistan will continue, due to its belief in a community with a shared future for mankind.
Sharing his views with Xinhua, Mustafa Hyder Sayed, executive director of an Islamabad-based think-tank, the Pakistan-China Institute, said that China believes in sharing and bridging the gap in the vaccination drive, by giving people in Pakistan, countries in Africa, East Asia, Central Asia, the Middle East, and war-torn countries like Afghanistan and Syria, an opportunity to get vaccinated.
"It shows the Chinese democracy and socialism with Chinese characteristics are not about a zero-sum game, but about win-win cooperation where all countries can win together, and the development can be shared equally," he said.
He said that China's support to the world including Pakistan, despite being a developing nation itself, reflects China's policy for a multipolar world where there are equal opportunities for all countries regardless of their size and wealth.
"China is giving equal opportunity to all countries contrary to the exclusive G7 or Western club of countries who are boosting vaccine nationalism and vaccine hoarding," he said.
Sayed said that China's vaccine support to Pakistan at a crucial time when China itself is inoculating its population and there is a vaccine shortage in the world, is a gesture which the people of Pakistan and other countries will remember.