Pakistan's Premier Multilingual News Agency

Pakistan procures Pfizer vaccines amid JN.1 Omicron concerns

Islamabad, 5 January, 2024 (GNP): In response to the potential resurgence of the new Covid-19 variant, JN.1 Omicron, Pakistan’s Health Minister, Dr. Nadeem Jan, affirmed that the country has not yet detected any cases of this variant but underscored a state of heightened vigilance.

Following the recommendations of the Emergency Operation Centre’s (EOC) technical advisory group concerning the looming threat posed by the JN.1 variant, the federal government has initiated the procurement of 500,000 doses of the Pfizer Covid vaccine from the United States.

It has been projected that approximately 200,000 vaccine doses will arrive in the country within the forthcoming week, with the remainder expected in subsequent phases, as outlined in a report by Dawn.

Characterized as a sub-variant of the Omicron lineage, the JN.1 variant demonstrates increased transmissibility, contributing to a rising proportion of reported cases. While health experts suggest it may be less severe than other strains, concerns persist regarding potential complications, particularly for high-risk demographics such as the elderly with compromised immunity.

Dr. Nadeem Jan, addressing the Senate, reiterated Pakistan’s proactive monitoring of the new variant and the government’s “red alert” status. He highlighted ongoing efforts to implement widespread testing mechanisms across various districts to assess and address potential outbreaks.

The minister emphasized the issuance of three advisories on the matter, calling for Pakistan Electronic Media and Regulatory Authority (Pemra) to broadcast these advisories on TV channels to increase public awareness.

Drawing parallels with influenza, the health minister underscored the necessity of continued vigilance and preventive measures.

In parallel, the National Institute of Health Sciences (NIH) issued advisories to provinces, classifying the JN.1 variant as a Variant of Interest (VOI) as designated by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Also Read: India reports surge in Covid-19 cases and six deaths amid JN.1 variant concerns

The advisory outlined genetic changes potentially impacting transmissibility, severity, immune response, and diagnostic and therapeutic measures.

Moreover, the NIH highlighted rapid growth trends of the JN.1 variant across WHO regions and urged health authorities and stakeholders to remain vigilant and prepared for potential surges in patient influx in the coming weeks.

Additionally, the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) has announced the resumption of screening for inbound passengers. A mandated 2% screening of inbound travelers at all entry points will be enforced to ensure strict vigilance and surveillance amid the surge of Covid-19 cases in certain countries.