The Chinese Sinopharm vaccine for Covid-19 is not recommended for people older than 60 years, Dr Faisal Sultan said on Thursday.

The Chinese Sinopharm vaccine for Covid-19, which started being administered in Pakistan this week, is not recommended for people older than 60 years, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan said on Thursday.

Speaking to reporters in Islamabad, he said the government’s expert committee while considering the preliminary analysis of Sinopharm data had recommended that the vaccine be licensed for people aged 18-60 “at this stage”.

“At this stage, the [committee] did not authorise the vaccine for people older than 60,” he added.

Dr Sultan said this was not an “unusual” scenario.

“When new medicines come, such things happen and the basis is whether that [age group of the] population or people with certain conditions were included in the research for it. When we get more data, perhaps it will be used for people above 60 as well.”

On Wednesday, Pakistan started vaccinating frontline health workers against the coronavirus, days after receiving half a million doses of the Sinopharm vaccine donated by China.

The Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap) had approved Chinese state-owned firm Sinopharm’s Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use last month. So far, three vaccines have been approved for use in the country — Sinopharm’s vaccine, Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, and the vaccine developed by Oxford University-AstraZeneca.

On Saturday, Planning Minister Asad Umar had announced that the government had rec­eived a letter from Covax saying 17 million doses of the Astra­Zeneca vaccine would be provided to Pakistan in the first half of 2021.

When contacted by about which vaccine would be used for people over 60 instead of Sinopharm’s, Dr Sultan said the AstraZeneca vaccine would be used.

When it was pointed out that certain countries such as Germany and France had not allowed the AstraZeneca jab for the old age group, raising concerns over the data, Dr Sultan noted that several other countries had approved the vaccine for senior citizens.

“When our Pakistani experts looked at the data, they were reasonably satisfied with the AstraZeneca data but felt that [based] on the presently available numbers for Sinopharm, the data did not justify its usage for those aged over 60.

“The Chinese have also reiterated this restriction,” he added.

He said, however, that these were “complex matters”, and it was unlikely that a homogeneous perspective would be seen regarding vaccine administration around the world.

Originally published at Dawn