In a major relief to Pakistanis waiting to travel to Saudi Arabia, the government has revised guidelines for AstraZeneca vaccines and allowed citizens who are 18 or older to get the jab which was earlier restricted to those aged over 40, it emerged on Tuesday.
Special Assistant to Prime Minister (SAPM) on Health Dr Faisal Sultan said on Geo Pakistan that Pakistanis who are travelling to Saudi Arabia can get the Oxford vaccine after showing their documents.
Protests had erupted across the country asking the government to allow the AstraZeneca vaccine.
The kingdom has only approved Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, while in Pakistan, Chinese vaccines are mostly being used.
Earlier, in May, the Pakistani health authorities had restricted the use of Oxford for people under 40.
“(On the recommendations of an expert committee), we have updated the interim guidelines (for the use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine AZD1222) today. There are two key changes: Use among less than 40 years be restricted irrespective of gender (till the availability of further data). 2. Interval between doses fixed 12 weeks instead of range of 8-12 weeks mentioned in an earlier version,” Director General Health Pakistan Dr Rana Muhammad Safdar had told.
He had maintained that both above changes will lead to operational ease and added that guidelines remain interim as new data from around the world keeps pouring.
Speaking to Geo News today, SAPM Sultan said the government will issue the directives later today according to which all those above 18 can get the vaccine and those travelling to the kingdom can also get it after showing travel documents.
He also urged the World Health Organisation (WHO) to ensure that the vaccines approved by it are universally acceptable and Pakistan is in talks with the Saudi authorities in this regard.
The WHO has granted emergency use listing of eight vaccines, including two Chinese vaccines.