by Misbah Saba Malik
ISLAMABAD, Feb. 9 (Xinhua) -- Pakistan is the world's first country to receive China's vaccine donation, and the Pakistani army is also the first foreign military to receive COVID-19 vaccine aid from the Chinese military on Monday.
After receiving the donation last week, Pakistan kicked off a large scale vaccination program with priorities being attached to the frontline healthcare workers.
China's vaccine donation is highly expected to help the country win the battle against the disease.
With over half a million cases and more than 12,000 deaths, Pakistan is wrestling with the second wave of the deadly coronavirus, which has affected all segments of the society and disrupted the hustle of socio-economic life in the country.
Experts in Pakistan believe that China's timely support will not only strengthen bilateral relations, but will also help the country's economy to recover from the pandemic.
In a conversation with Xinhua, Noor Ahmad, secretary of the country's Economic Affairs Division of the Ministry of Economic Affairs, said that the "early vaccination with the help of China will contribute to the normalization of business and economic activities particularly in urban areas where the COVID-19 economic impact is the hardest."
Local economists believe that the initiation of vaccination drive has increased the chances of the growth of the Pakistani economy in the current fiscal year 2021, after a challenging 2020.
"It can be foreseen that Pakistan's GDP growth in FY21 is likely to be over 2 percent, due to complete restoration of all economic activities across the country after the initiation of vaccination drive with the help of China," Vaqar Ahmed, joint executive director at the Sustainable Development Policy Institute, an Islamabad-based think tank, told Xinhua.
"Initially, the GDP growth was expected to be less than 2 percent this year due to the pandemic, which means that the country had to face many challenges including controlling the rising unemployment, harnessing the soaring debts and addressing the problems of poverty and health services among others," he noted.
After the timely arrival of the vaccine from China, the situation is likely to get better and there is a great hope that the economic growth will be over 2 percent, which is a very positive indicator in the challenging time of the pandemic, Ahmed said.
"The Chinese donation will also help the Pakistani government save money ... to financially help the people who lost their jobs during the pandemic, and buy medical equipment for the disease-infected patients as well as protective equipment for the frontline staff," he added.
The economic expert also noted that many sectors of the economy including travel, tourism, restaurant, hotel and other leisure industries which have not been opened at a full scale will also get a boom after the initiation of vaccination drive across the country.
China's vaccine donation will also help Pakistan significantly in budget saving.
"China, by offering the vaccine to Pakistan at the crucial time, has saved Pakistan from more borrowing from international lenders to procure the expensive vaccines from the West," he said.
The China-donated vaccine will be administered to about half a million healthcare workers in the first phase whereas in the second phase Pakistan will procure vaccines to administer about 9.5 million citizens above the age of 65, according to Special Assistant to the Pakistani Prime Minister on Health Faisal Sultan.
Muhammad Zahid, a medical officer in the outpatient department of Lady Reading Hospital in the provincial capital Peshawar of Pakistan's northwest Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, was among the first group of people in the country to receive the vaccine shots.
Talking to Xinhua, Zahid said that he and his family had been waiting for long to get him vaccinated as his job exposed him to more risks of getting infected.
"I received the vaccine on Feb. 3, and got back to my routine work right after receiving the jab. I am feeling normal," he said. "Nothing has changed for me except for the impregnable psychological shield and boosted morale defined by a marked sense of immunity owing to the inoculation of the vaccine." Enditem