Expressing serious concerns over the imports of various vaccines from India, especially the typhoid conjugate vaccine (TCV) to contain the outbreak of extensively drug resistant (XDR) typhoid in Sindh, the National Institute of Health (NIH) authorities have urged the government to provide them resources and entrust them with the task of producing various vaccines for meeting the national demands.
“When the government decided to import the typhoid conjugate vaccine from India, we at the NIH were highly perturbed and we also wrote a letter to the authorities. “We are capable of producing various vaccines and asked the government to provide us resources so that we could start production of various vaccines included in the Extended Program on Immunisation (EPI)”, said Prof Dr Aamer Ikram, executive director of the NIH, while talking to The News.
Pakistan imports over a dozen vaccines from different countries of the world, including India, but some very important vaccines, including the anti-rabies vaccine (ARV), anti-snake venom sera, measles vaccine, and some important vaccines included in the EPI, are imported from India through GAVI Alliance and Unicef, officials said.
Recently, authorities decided to import a large number of batches of the typhoid conjugate Vaccine (TCV) from Indian biotechnology firm Bharat Biotech after an outbreak of extensively drug resistant (XDR) typhoid rang alarm bells around the globe and international health bodies advised the Pakistani health authorities to vaccinate children in affected areas with TCV, which is the only clinically proven conjugate vaccine against typhoid at the movement.
The NIH executive director said the Biological Production Unit at the NIH was capable of producing many vaccines for the EPI, including production of typhoid vaccine (TAB), which was effective against both the strains of Salmonella typhi, the bacterium that causes typhoid fever.
“We have been producing the TAB vaccine for last many years and we have asked the authorities to give our vaccine TAB a try to prevent the outbreak of XDR typhoid in the affected areas,” Dr Aamer Ikram said and added that it was the right time to become self-sufficient in vaccine production instead of relying on India.
He further stated that their biological production unit would also start producing anti-rabies vaccine and anti-snake venom sera by the mid of the this year, saying this would help the country in overcoming its dependence on foreign vaccines, especially those imported from the neighboring India.
“Similarly, we are also planning to start production of measles and other vaccines included in the EPI program and in this regard, we need the support and financial resources from the authorities,” he said, adding that the NIH was also entering into a public-private partnership, especially in the area of vaccine production.
To a query, he said the NIH had already established two public health safety labs at Quetta and Peshawar while it was heading towards becoming the National Referral Centre in the country. He added that they were already collecting the data of infectious diseases from the entire country.
But health experts rejected the claims of NIH officials regarding the effectiveness of the locally-produced typhoid vaccine, TAB, saying it was an obsolete vaccine and no more used anywhere in the world.
“Being a Pakistani we would love to see that all the vaccines are produced locally and we don’t have to import them from outside world, but unfortunately, we lack the capacity to produce high-quality vaccines which could prevent our children from vaccine-preventable diseases,” said eminent pediatrician and Director National Institute of Child Health (NICH) Prof Jamal Raza.
He told The News that in order to contain the outbreak of XDR typhoid, a conjugate vaccine was required which was only being produced by India. He added that it was actually being imported by international health bodies which were helping the Pakistani health authorities to contain this deadly outbreak.
Prof Raza maintained that vaccine production was a highly complex process and although there were hundreds of pharmaceutical companies which were manufacturing good quality medicines, they were incapable of producing vaccines as very few countries of the world had the capability to produce vaccines on a commercial scale.
Another expert and program manager of Extended Program on Immunisation (EPI), Dr Zahoor Baloch, confirmed that Pakistan imported several vaccines, including measles, rotavirus and some other vaccines, from India, but he added that these vaccines were being imported by the GAVI and Unicef and they were actually dealing with Indian authorities instead of Pakistani officials.
Source :- Thenews.com.pk