FS Mahmood stresses self-reliance in vaccines

By Staff Reporter
Wednesday – June 9, 2021
ISLAMABAD: The foreign secretary (FS) Sohail Mahmood underscored, on Tuesday, that there is a need to turn the Covid-19 (coronavirus) related challenges into opportunity and stressed the importance of pursuing self-reliance in vaccines and reinforcing national efforts for strengthening health security through international partnerships and collaboration.

According to a press release, the foreign office (FO), under the framework of its science diplomacy initiative, hosted a coordination meeting on international cooperation and partnerships in vaccine production.

The FS referred to various initiatives at the World Health Organisation (WHO) and associated forums as well as the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to support and facilitate developing countries’ access to vaccines.

He lauded the efforts by the national stakeholders in handling the Covid-19 response and underlined the need for creating further synergies in building requisite vaccine infrastructure.

The national institute of health (NIH) executive director (ED) Aamer Ikram presented a comprehensive overview of the existing work in the area of vaccines, including international partnerships, to facilitate local production and the challenges in this regard.

Based on the existing research infrastructure, he noted, Pakistan can greatly benefit from commercialisation-based collaborations with international partners.

Furthermore, NIH ED Ikram stressed the need to strengthen regulatory compliance procedures as well to benefit adequately from international initiatives for vaccines.

Pakistan’s permanent representatives to the WHO, ambassador Khalil Hashmi, and the WTO Mujtaba Piracha, updated the participants on various work streams at the WHO, including COVAX, and the potential benefits Pakistan can draw from them.

Pakistan is also among the leading countries advocating patent waiver at the WTO for Covid-19 vaccines and more equitable access for developing countries.

The participants exchanged views on the challenges and opportunities for boosting local innovation efforts and benefiting from international collaboration.

To this end, it was agreed to establish a working group, to be steered by NIH ED Ikram, to develop a roadmap, with the FO facilitating outreach with international institutions and partners.

The meeting was co-chaired by FS Mahmood and NIH ED Ikram.

The meeting was attended by high-level representatives of the national health services ministry, regulations, and coordination; Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP); national command and operation centre (NCOC); science and technology ministry; commerce ministry; industries and production ministry; climate change ministry; higher education commission (HEC), and research organisations from the public sector.

Pakistan’s permanent representatives to the WHO and WTO joined the meeting virtually.