The coronavirus is evolving very fast and the consequences will be adverse if people are not vaccinated on time.
Prof Dr Muhammad Iqbal Choudhary of the International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences said this at a press conference today [Saturday] in Karachi. It was attended by Sindh Minister for Health Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho and Information Minister Syed Nasir Hussain Shah.
Dr Iqbal said like any other virus, COVID-19 tends to evolve with time and is evolving at an alarming speed. “There have been 132 mutations in the virus so far,” he said. “Of them, 32 mutations are directly related to infectivity.” Mutations are the changes that occur in a virus when it tries to adapt to a new environment.
“It is very important to monitor genomic variations,” he said. “The ICCBS at Karachi University is Pakistan's leading genomic laboratory where we are studying these variations.”
The ICCBS, in collaboration with the Sindh government, is collecting samples from Lahore, Quetta, Karachi, and other cities for the research. Dr Iqbal warned that if people are not vaccinated on time, the coronavirus will mutate to the point that the vaccine will have no effect on it.
Dr Pechuho emphasised the need for vaccination and said the vaccines cannot be imported until the federal government approves.
“Unfortunately, Pakistan is the last country that has yet to order vaccines,” she said. “Procuring vaccines is the federal government’s responsibility. If they can’t do it, they should allow the provincial government to procure vaccines and start administering them.” She added that 70% to 80% of Pakistan’s population needs to be vaccinated.
Dr Pechuho said procuring the Sinopharm vaccine from the Chinese government is possible only through Pakistan's foreign ministry, adding that the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan has approved AstraZeneca for the private sector, which will arrive in a week or two. “We have two vaccination centres ready and a plan as to how the vaccine will be administered. We're just waiting for the government's response."
Dr Pechuho said the vaccine will only reduce the severity of the virus.
“Our masks are not going anywhere,” she remarked. “We’ll still have to wear them.”