On Thursday, Pakistan’s Minister for Science and Technology – Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said that the country would procure close to 1.2 million shots of the Chinese vaccine against COVID-19 from Sinopharm. This has become the first official order to be placed by the Islamist country for a COVID-19 vaccine, and expectedly, it has leaned on its all-weather ally – China to procure the same. Pakistan had earlier this month approved $150 million in funding to buy COVID-19 vaccines, initially to cover the most vulnerable five per cent of the population.
Now while the Pakistani establishment is in a celebratory mood over the procurement of 1.2 million doses of a Coronavirus vaccine developed by a Chinese-state backed pharmaceutical firm, the ordinary Pakistani citizens are not as half as happy about their government’s selection. As a matter of fact, a majority of Pakistanis are believed to be apprehensive about the China-manufactured vaccines, developed in haste and without proper quality and safety checks. Bloomberg interviewed Pakistanis in Karachi, the country’s largest city, most of whom outrightly refused getting inoculated with a Chinese vaccine.
“I won’t take it,” said Farman Ali Shah, a motorcycle driver in Karachi for local ride-hailing app Bykea, as local shops closed early ahead of an 8 p.m. virus-induced curfew. “I don’t trust it,” he added.
Coupled with surveys and official findings, the global perception viz., Chinese vaccines, including in client states like Pakistan is not the kind of mood the paper dragon was looking to enter 2021 with. If despite investing over $70 billion in Pakistan, China is not able to sell its pharmaceutical products in the country, it is a testimony to the fact that the paper dragon’s soft power projection abilities have taken a serious hit in the year gone by.
Interestingly, while Pakistan has placed an order of 1.2 million doses of the Chinese vaccine, almost no Pakistani seems to be willing to get inoculated with the same. Therefore, it is highly likely that Pakistan would be buying vaccines which would ultimately not be put to use, further devastating the already economically-battered country’s fiscal health. In addition to purchasing vaccines from Sinopharm, Pakistan has also opened the path for its private sector to import any other international vaccine of their choosing.
Domestically, Pakistan is running phase III clinical trials for CanSino Biologics’ COVID-19 vaccine candidate, Ad5-nCoV, led by the government-run National Institute of Health, Reuters reported. Apart from Pakistan, China is facing setbacks on the vaccine front in almost all countries it is pitching its vaccines in.
In Brazil, where trials for the Chinese vaccine Sinovac were conducted, over 50 per cent of the people have comprehensively rejected the candidate, with their President himself putting the Chinese origin of the vaccine into question.
Pakistanis rejecting the Chinese vaccine will serve as a major cause for people across the world to not think twice before doing the same themselves. This would, naturally, induce a crisis in China’s pharmaceutical sector, which has invested heavily in Coronavirus vaccine development at the behest of the CCP.