Pakistan court allows commercial sale of COVID-19 vaccine

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A Pakistani court on Thursday ordered that a batch of the Russian Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine imported by a private company be immediately made available to the public for sale, according to a court document and officials.

The government had argued that pricing issues should be settled first.

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"Any restriction relating to sale of the COVID-19 vaccine at this stage would be against the public interest because of its undisputed urgent need due to the crisis faced by the country," a Sindh High Court judge said in an order on Thursday.

Pakistan, largely reliant on the COVAX vaccine-sharing initiative, last month allowed private firms to import vaccines and agreed to exempt them from price caps, but later rescinded the exemption and said it would set maximum prices.

The decision threw the government and pharmaceutical companies into dispute, and stalled the commercial sale of the vaccine.

Thursday's court order was passed in a case brought last week by M/S AGP Ltd, which imported 50,000 doses of Sputnik V on March 17.

A senior official of AGP told Reuters that the company had asked the court to allow it to sell the vaccine at a price of 12,268 Pakistani rupees ($80.54) for a pack of two doses of Sputnik V.

It was not immediately clear if this would be the price it would be marketed at, which is much higher than the initial government proposed price of 8,449 Pakistani rupees ($55.47).

AG Pharma had told the court it has cost the company $45 for a pack of two doses.

The court said it would hold further hearings to determine pricing, but said the sale of the vaccines should start immediately and, once a fair price was determined, any monetary difference could be recovered from the company at a later stage.

Pakistan is one of the first countries in the world to allow the commercial sale of COVID-19 vaccines.

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