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An international consultative meeting was held on 27th March 2017 at Health Services Academy, Islamabad, under the aegis of the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations & Coordination. This was the first round table discussion held under Ministry’s Health & Population Think Tank. The meeting was chaired by the Federal Secretary Health. Among other notables were present the DG Health, Member Social Sector, Professor from Aga Khan University, CEO DRAP, CoP JSI/USAID and Dr Muhammad Assai, WR WHO Pakistan.

With the given population growth rate and the burden of disease, the demand and need for vaccines for communicable diseases is exorbitantly increasing every year in Pakistan. The Government of Pakistan procures vaccines of around PKRs 22-25 billion, comprising various EPI antigens and vaccines from UNICEF as well as non-EPI vaccines from the local market.  This expense causes huge encumbrance on the government exchequer. Technical Lead-Think Tank briefed the house that with vaccines alone, 50% of infant deaths could be prevented. Currently, our vaccines supply is warranted by UNICEF and GAVI. Nevertheless, many other regional and neighboring countries manufacture and maintain their own requisite vaccine demand. National Institute of Health (NIH) established since 1965 with the mandate to produce vaccines, to date maintains a very modest capacity of producing few vaccines.

A wide range of experts from various walks of life including international vaccines experts (Dr Martin Howell Friede WHO Geneva & Jan Hendricks from Intravacc-Netherlands), representatives of WHO, GAVI, UNICEF, USAID; government functionaries, academia, researchers, animal and agriculture/livestock sector, financiers, scientists and multinational pharmaceuticals attended the meeting. The aims and objectives of consultative meeting were framed around few basic questions: should Pakistan improve its readiness and capacity to start manufacturing its own vaccines? What is needed to achieve self-sufficiency and self-reliance in vaccines production in this given scenario? Will manufacturing be more feasible in public sector (NIH) or should it be mandated to the private for profit sector? How the private sector be regulated for quantity, quality (safety and efficacy), and prices; and what should be the role and responsibilities of the government (M/o NHSR&C, NIH, DRAP, EPI, Provinces)?

An exhaustive discussion took place and few concrete recommendations were framed which will be shared with the ministries of health, planning and finance for an action plan and a way forward.

vaccine meeting photo