A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca's Coronavirus vaccine at the vaccination centre at Messe Dresden convention centre during a vaccination campaign. Photo: Robert Michael/dpa-Zentralbild/dpa
A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca's Coronavirus vaccine at the vaccination centre at Messe Dresden convention centre during a vaccination campaign. Photo: Robert Michael/dpa-Zentralbild/dpa

Pakistan on Monday opened its biggest Covid-19 vaccination centre as the country raced to expand its inoculation infrastructure after receiving 1.2 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine under a global distribution system.

The new centre in the southern city of Karachi has the capacity to inoculate at least 100,000 people a day, said Nasir Shah, the regional government’s information minister.

A third wave of the cases has devastated Pakistan and there are mounting fears that the country’s health care system could collapse, as in neighbouring India which has been devastated by a massive surge in infections.

More than 850,000 people have been infected in Pakistan and the death toll is approaching 19,000, according to the Health Ministry’s statistics.

But the country has only been able to vaccinate 3.5 million people so far, a small fraction of its 216 million population, due to supply constraints.

Pakistan relied on China for doses of the vaccine before it received the first batch of AstraZeneca jabs under the COVAX system this weekend, country’s health chief Faisal Sultan said.

At least 17 million more shots are supposed to reach Pakistan by the end of June, Sultan said, vowing to increase capacities and the daily vaccination rate thanks to the steadier supply.

Besides expanding vaccinations, Pakistani authorities have imposed a lockdown during the Muslim holidays of Eid al-Fitr that mark the end of the holy month of Ramadan this week.

The number of incoming flights has been slashed by 80 per cent, trains and public transport were banned and tourist destinations are subject to a curfew.

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