ISLAMABAD 

A Pakistani pharmaceutical company has signed a deal with a Chinese firm to produce a COVID-19 vaccine in the country, according to an official announcement on Thursday.

In a letter to the Pakistan Stock Exchange, Searle Company Limited said it had finalized an agreement with China’s Livzon Mapharm Inc. to manufacture a novel coronavirus vaccine – V-01 – in Pakistan.

“The Searle Company Limited has successfully concluded an exclusive licensing and supply agreement with Livzon Mapharm Inc. for the Recombinant Novel Coronavirus Vaccine (V-01),” read the letter.

“The licensing agreement also covers the manufacturing transition of (V-01) in Pakistan.”

Searle, which will be the first company to manufacture a COVID-19 vaccine in Pakistan, said the jab has shown promising results in Phase 1 and 2 trials.

“The Phase Ill clinical study will include multiple countries and enroll more than 20,000 subjects, with the aim to evaluate the efficacy, safety, and immunogenicity of V-01 program,” the letter said.

According to the company, the vaccine has “many potential advantages such as strong safety profile … long durability, and easy to scale up for manufacturing.”

Searle said it was hopeful that “the relevant authorities will take up the matter on urgent basis and support fast-track approval to carry out Phase 3 clinical trials in Pakistan.”

Pakistan has so far approved four COVID-19 vaccines for use in the country – China’s Sinopharm and CanSino, along with Russia’s Sputnik V and the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab.

Infections hitting new highs

Pakistan on Friday reported 5,234 new COVID-19 cases, the highest daily spike since June 20 last year, raising its overall tally to 678,165.

Another 83 patients died in the last 24 hours, pushing the fatality count to 14,613, according to the Health Ministry.

As many as 607,205 patients have recovered so far, leaving the number of active cases at 56,347, latest data showed.

Infections have surged in the South Asian country of over 200 million in recent days, with more than 75,000 reported in March alone.

Asad Umar, the country’s planning minister who is leading its pandemic response, said the entire region has been experiencing a “severe” COVID-19 spike.

“It is vital that we all contribute to containing the spread by taking sensible precautions. Wear a mask, avoid crowded places, wash hands or sanitize often, reduce travel to only essential work,” he said on Twitter.

As part of efforts to stem surging infections, the government has reimposed a blanket ban on all kinds of public gatherings across the country and is enforcing expanded lockdowns in the worst-hit areas.

Educational institutes have also been closed until at least April 11 in districts with high infection rates.

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