ISLAMABAD - The National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) on Tuesday announced the launch of phase 3 clinical trials for Chinese-developed Covid-19 vaccine in Pakistan. The vaccine has been developed by China’s CanSino Biologics. Trials for phase 1 and 2 for the vaccine were held in China. Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar said that 40,000 people will participate in the trial, which, he said, is being held in seven countries across the world.

He said around 8,000 to 10,000 of these will be from Pakistan and added initial results of the trial are expected in four to six months time. “Just launched the phase 3 trials for a Covid19 vaccine in Pakistan. Vaccine has been developed by a chinese company. A total of 40,000 people will participate in this trial in 7 countries, of which 8 to 10, 000 will be Pakistani. Initial results expected in 4 to 6 months,” the Minister said in a tweet.

Pakistan, under a public-private partnership between the National Institute of Health (NIH) and CanSino, is among the countries which will carry out phase 3, said the NCOC statement.

Addressing a Press conference alongside NIH Executive Director Maj Gen Aamer Ikram on Tuesday, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan termed the trial as an important step in which Pakistanis would also take part. Maj Gen Ikram said it was an honour for the country that it was participating in the phase 3 trial of a vaccine for the first time.

Speaking about how the study was being conducted, Maj Gen Ikram said that in the pre-clinical phase, the vaccine is tried on animals. This was done in China at the start of the year. It was safe and immunogenic, he said.

Then there is a phase 1 trial which was again conducted in China and its results were good. The phase 2 trial was conducted on 508 people which is considered a big trial and when the results were found to be good,” he added. He said phase 3 trial was the biggest and most difficult stage.

He proudly announced that the NIH accepted this challenge and that the country was grateful to the patronage of the NCOC and the Ministry of Health. He said that the trials have been launched from Tuesday and 8,000 to 10,000 volunteers would be inducted through a formal system. The vaccine would be available in the market in five to six months once its results were analysed and it was approved, Ikram said.

Meanwhile, the government’s database on coronavirus shows that another 290 people have recovered in Pakistan, taking the country’s total recoveries to 293,159. According to the database, 570 patients are in critical condition at the moment.

Punjab recorded 59 new coronavirus cases during the last 24 hours, according to the government’s Covid-19 portal, taking the provincial total to 98,487. The province reported one more fatality from the virus, taking the provincial death toll to 2,227. According to the portal, 94,917 people have recovered from the coronavirus in Punjab so far. Islamabad, Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir collectively reported 92 new Covid-19 cases during the last 24 hours.

According to the government’s database on coronavirus, the capital reported 45 new cases, up from 38 a day earlier. GB recorded 30 cases while AJK confirmed 17 new infections. They reported no more fatalities from the virus during the same period.