Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood has underscored that there is a need to turn the Covid-19 related challenges into opportunity.
In this context, he stressed the importance of pursuing self-reliance in vaccines and reinforcing national efforts for strengthening health security through international partnerships and collaboration.
The foreign secretary expressed these views as he and National Institute of Health (NIH) Executive Director Prof Dr Aamer Ikram co-chaired Coordination Meeting on International Cooperation and Partnerships in Vaccine Production in Islamabad hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, under the framework of its Science Diplomacy Initiative on Tuesday.
The meeting was attended by high-level representatives of the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations, and Coordination; Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP); National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC); Ministry of Science and Technology; Ministry of Commerce; Ministry of Industries and Production; Ministry of Climate Change; Higher Education Commission (HEC), and research organisations from the public sector in Pakistan.
Pakistan's Permanent Representatives to the World Health Organisation (WHO) and World Trade Organisation (WTO) joined the meeting virtually.
The foreign secretary referred to various initiatives at the WHO and associated forums as well as the WTO to support and facilitate developing countries' access to vaccines.
He lauded 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 NIH executive director 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 said, Pakistan can greatly benefit from commercialisation-based collaborations with international partners.
Furthermore, he 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 WTO Dr 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 the NIH executive director, to develop a roadmap, with the Foreign Office facilitating outreach with international institutions and partners.