ISLAMABAD, Feb. 8 (Xinhua) -- Pakistan received a batch of COVID-19 vaccines donated by the Chinese military during a handover ceremony held on Monday at the Noor Khan Air Base near Pakistan's capital Islamabad.
Pakistani Lt.-Gen. Nigar Johar, surgeon general of the Pakistan army, and Maj.-Gen. Chen Wenrong, defense attache of the Chinese Embassy in Pakistan, attended the handover ceremony.
The Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) on Sunday delivered a batch of COVID-19 vaccines to the Pakistani military at the latter's request, China's Ministry of National Defense said Sunday.
According to a statement issued by the Chinese Embassy in Pakistan on Monday, Chen said a batch of China-gifted Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccines were handed over to the Pakistani side a week ago, making Pakistan the first country in the world to receive the Chinese government-donated COVID-19 vaccines, and the Pakistani army has also become the first foreign military to receive COVID-19 vaccine aid from the Chinese military, which is a manifestation of the unbreakable friendship between the two "iron brothers."
This batch of COVID-19 vaccines donated by the Chinese military is another important step taken by China to fulfill its commitment to making Chinese COVID-19 vaccines, once developed and put into use, a global public good and will promote the military-to-military anti-epidemic cooperation between the two countries, Chen said.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Pakistan, and the military-to-military relations of the two countries are an important pillar of bilateral relations, he said, adding that the Chinese military will continue to cooperate with the Pakistani military in various fields to forge a closer China-Pakistan community of shared future in the new era.
Thanking the Chinese military for providing the vaccines, Johar said the fact that the Pakistani army has become the first foreign military to receive COVID-19 vaccine aid from the Chinese military highlights the friendship between Pakistan and China, which is "higher than the mountain, deeper than the sea, and sweeter than the honey," according to the statement.
Pakistan's armed forces extended their deepest gratitude to China and the Chinese military for "this magnanimous donation during testing times," according to a statement released by Pakistani army's media wing, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) on Monday.
It has been decided that the vaccine donation of the Chinese military will be used in Pakistan's national vaccination drive to get frontline healthcare workers across Pakistan vaccinated, who are "real heroes fighting against pandemic and saving precious lives," the ISPR said.
After receiving the Chinese vaccines, Pakistan on Wednesday formally started its National COVID Immunization Program simultaneously across the country and the frontline healthcare workers are the first to be vaccinated followed by senior citizens.
Pakistan has confirmed 555,511 COVID-19 cases, while 12,026 people have lost their lives to the disease since the outbreak in the country, according to the data released by Pakistan's Health Ministry on Monday.