Chinese pharma company invites Pakistan's health institute to collaborate for coronavirus vaccine
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Islamabad: A major Chinese pharmaceutical company has invited a premier national health institute of Pakistan to collaborate in conducting clinical trials of its recently developed inactivated vaccine for COVID-19 in Pakistan, a media report said on Thursday.

The Islamabad-based National Institute of Health (NIH) received the offer from China Sinopharm International Corp for the successful clinical trials in Pakistan to make it one of the first few countries for the launch of a COVID-19 vaccine, the Dawn newspaper website reported.

The letter of invitation was sent to NIH Executive Director Maj Gen Dr Aamer Ikram by the general manager of China Sinopharm International Corp, Li Can.

Ikram said that although no action has so far been taken, the collaboration with the Chinese pharmaceutical major could be "a great thing for Pakistan".

"We want to increase the trend of clinical trials in the country. There are a number of laws before it can start; it has to be approved by the ethics committee...but we will start when we get the clearance," he was quoted as saying to the Dawn website.

Ikram said the benefits from the clinical trials being held in Pakistan will be that if the vaccine proves to be successful, the country will be able to procure it on a high-priority basis.

China is where the COVID-19 infection broke out in December last year and killed over 4,000 people. Later it spread to several parts of the world, including Pakistan,where till now it has claimed the lives of over 220 people.

The NIH is an autonomous organisation that functions under the ministry of national health services.

A state-owned enterprise, Sinopharm produces more than 80 per cent of the mandatory immunisation needs of China and played a leading role in fighting the COVID-19 crisis in the country.

"In the process we developed a lot of practical insights that we would like to share with you," reads the letter written to the NIH chief, noting that the two organisations have already been collaborating regarding vaccine development in Pakistan.

It said that regulatory authorities worldwide have initiated emergency protocols to facilitate clinical trials and early introduction of a COVID-19 vaccine.

In China, Phase I and II of the clinical trials have been combined to speed up the process.

The Chinese pharma company recommended that Pakistan adopt a similar approach through the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP).

It noted that the NIH has the necessary technical expertise and elements for conducting clinical trials on recruited participants through a nominated medical institution.

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