Updated 17 June 2021
The COVID-19 immunization program is steadily progressing in Pakistan. Millions of doses have been administered across the country to date, and the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is playing a key role in the country’s mass inoculation efforts.
Read more about the AstraZeneca vaccine in Pakistan below.
How does the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine work?
The ChAdOx1 COVID-19 vaccine developed by Oxford University in conjunction with the British-Swedish company AstraZeneca is based on the virus’s genetic instructions for building the spike protein, which are stored using double-stranded DNA.
In simpler terms, it is made from a weakened version of a common cold virus, called adenovirus, from chimpanzees and has been modified to look more like coronavirus. It requires two doses, given four weeks apart, to prime the immune system to fight off the coronavirus. The first jab prompts the immune system to start making antibodies while the second one strengthens the immune response, thus priming the body against coronavirus.
This vaccine is to be administered only to individuals above the age of 18 years, as its safety has not been assessed in children and teenagers.
How effective is it?
The peer-reviewed results of the Phase-III trials of the vaccine show that it is up to 90% effective. Out of the 11,636 adults who had volunteered for the trials, only 131 (1.1%) had symptomatic COVID-19 more than 14 days after receiving the second dose, indicating a vaccine efficacy of 70%.
The results also revealed that the vaccine was only 62% effective when participants were given two full doses, but its efficacy rose to 90% when a half dose followed by a full dose was administered.
Note that these figures are low when put up against the Pfizer shots, which have a 95% effectiveness. However, the trials of the two vaccines were conducted in different ways, so the results are not directly comparable.
Like other COVID-19 vaccines, there is still no evidence to suggest that the Oxford vaccine will not be effective against the new strain.
Does it have any side effects?
The AstraZeneca vaccine does have a few side-effects, but they are mostly mild to moderate in nature. Over-the-counter pills or an appointment with a general physician are likely to resolve them in a few days after the inoculation.
They include tenderness, pain, warmth, redness, itching, swelling or bruising, feeling unwell, fatigue, chills, fever, headache, nausea, joint pain and muscle ache.
The vaccine might trigger allergic reactions like itchy skin rash, shortness of breath and swelling of the face or tongue. So, if you have a history of allergies, it is advisable to consult with a doctor whether you should go ahead with the vaccination.
AstraZeneca vaccine in Pakistan
AstraZeneca is one of the five vaccines to be approved in Pakistan, the other four being Sinopharm, CoronaVac, CanSino and Sputnik. The vaccine was authorized for emergency use by the Pakistani authorities on 16 January 2021.
Who can get the AstraZeneca vaccine?
The national COVID-19 immunization program is now open to everyone aged 19 and above in Pakistan. The AstraZeneca vaccine is now available to any Pakistani over the age of 18.
The following groups are eligible for the AstraZeneca jabs:
- All adults over the age of 18 years
- Pregnant and lactating women
- Eligible adults with diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and other stable chronic disorders
- Those with mild COVID-19, after they complete the isolation period
- Those with severe COVID-19, once they become stable
- Those chronically immunosuppressed (although the vaccine’s efficiency may be less)
- Those in the post-transplantation phase, 3 months after transplantation
- Those in the post-chemotherapy phase, 28 days after chemotherapy
The following categories are advised against receiving the AstraZeneca shots:
- Those with a history of severe allergic reactions to any component of the vaccine formulation
- Anyone below 18 years of age
- Those who have developed a clotting disorder after the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine
- Those having a fever at the time of vaccination appointment
- Those on short-term immunosuppressive medication, until 28 days after the medication ends
- Those having GI bleeding disorders or seizures
- Those with a history of heparin-induced thrombocytopenia and thrombosis (HITT or HIT type 2)
- Those with a history of a major blood clot occurring at the same time as having low levels of platelets after receiving any COVID-19 vaccine
Where can I get the vaccine Pakistan?
The Pakistani government has set up hundreds of vaccination centres across the country. You can check the full, province-wise list of vaccination centres in Pakistan here.
Remember that some centres are designates only for healthcare workers, so make sure you visit a centre marked ‘citizen’ or ‘both’.
How can I register for the AstraZeneca jab?
Any eligible Pakistani having an internet connection can register himself for vaccination by signing up on the NIMS website with his mobile number and other personal details.
In case the internet connection is not available, registration can be done by sending the 13-digit Computerised National Identity Card (CNIC), without spaces and dashes, to 1166 via text message.
You’ll receive the registration and appointment details on the registered mobile number.
Healthcare workers who have gotten themselves registered will be intimated about the vaccination centre and date as per schedule.
How much will it cost?
The AstraZeneca vaccine is being provided to citizens free of cost by the Pakistani government.