Pakistan’s drug regulator has greenlit the country’s first Phase 3 clinical trial for a potential Covid-19 vaccine, which is being developed by China’s CanSino Biologics (CanSino) and Beijing Institute of Biotechnology. The trial is slated to begin next month, according to an official who will coordinate the exercise. The National Institute of Health (NIH) will be leading the trial for the candidate Ad5-nCoV along with pharmaceutical company AJM – the local representative of CanSino. China has already approved the vaccine for use by its military after early and mid-stage trials, and further late-stage trials are being lined up for Mexico and Saudi Arabia.CanSino last month said it was in talks for opportunities to launch Phase 3 trials in Saudi Arabia, Russia, Brazil and Chile. NIH and AJM signed an agreement last month, and were awaiting clearance from the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP), which NIH says it had now received. “DRAP has approved a target Group of 10,000 participants for our clinical trial,” Hassan Abbas Zaheer, the coordinator of the trials for AJM, told Reuters via email. The study will be conducted across major medical research centres in Pakistan, located in Karachi, Islamabad and Lahore. Zaheer added the clinical trial will last for ‘some months’ and the data generated in all participating countries will be collected by CanSino regularly and analysed.On Tuesday, Pakistan reported 15 more deaths by novel coronavirus as the number of positive cases surged to 290,150. The nationwide tally of fatalities has jumped to 6,195. According to the latest figures by the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC), 617 persons tested positive for Covid-19 in last 24 hours. Sindh remains the worst-hit province by the pandemic in terms of cases followed by Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Islamabad. Till now, 126,743 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Sindh, 95,611 in Punjab, 35,337 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 15,401 in Islamabad, 12,321 in Balochistan, 2,199 in Azad Kashmir and 2,538 in Gilgit-Baltistan. Punjab on Tuesday recorded 164 new coronavirus cases and three deaths, according to the government’s Covid-19 portal. The total number of cases in Punjab is now 95,611, while 2,185 people have died from the disease.As many as 64 new cases confirmed taking the total to 35,401. Three more lives were lost (2 Abbottabad, 1 Peshawar) taking the total to 1,242. As many as 125 more patients recovered taking the total tally to 32,647. Active cases stand at 1,512. Islamabad, Gilgit Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir collectively reported 62 new cases and three deaths, the government’s Covid-19 portal said. Following is a breakdown of cases and deaths reported in each territory: Islamabad: 11 cases; 2 deaths, GB: 36 cases, AJK: 15 cases; 1 deathSindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah reported 318 new cases in the province, bringing the provincial tally to 126,743. The chief minister said the virus claimed five lives in the past 24 hours as the province’s death toll hit 2,336. In the 24-hour period, 392 patients have recovered. The total number of recovered patients in Sindh stands at 120,241.Covid-19 may lead to a 31 per cent increase in Pakistan’s infant and maternal mortality rates over the next 12 months if health services remained disrupted, said National Committee for Maternal and Newborn Health (NCMNH) Vice President Dr Azra Ahsan. Addressing a press conference, jointly organised by NCMNH, Society for Obstetrics and Gynecology of Pakistan (SOGP) and Forum for Safe Motherhood, she stated that women and newborn infants needed quality maternity care services with respect and dignity, even when disaster struck.