NIH starts vaccine production after long break

Published in Dawn, December 24th, 2018

The National Institute of Health (NIH) has finally started focusing on vaccine manufacturing, which is its key responsibility.

It is expected that the institute will be able to meet half the country’s requirement for anti-venom for snake bites by June 2019 via local production.

“We are currently producing around 40,000 doses annually which is almost a fifth of the country’s requirement and the remaining vaccines are imported. However, we have started efforts for manufacturing more of the vaccines,” NIH Executive Director Dr Aamer Ikram told Dawn.

One of the key functions of the institute is to manufacture vaccines. During the 80s and 90s, NIH was producing enough vaccines to meet the country’s requirements and was also looking to export them. The institute stopped producing vaccines after that.

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Dr Ikram said the production of a number of vaccines including for measles, tetanus and diphtheria has now been started and that it has been decided that the private sector will be involved in the production of vaccines.

“Technology is changing rapidly for which engaging the private sector will be better with input from us in vaccine production,” he said.

Dr Ikram added that though NIH was manufacturing vaccines in the past, it had not made a policy for good manufacturing practices (GMP).

“We cannot export vaccines without GMPs so we have prepared a draft policy which will soon be launched. This will enable us to export vaccines and will encourage the private sector to invest in the industry,” he said.

The NIH head claimed there will be huge improvements in the institute by 2019 as a number of projects which have been in the pipeline will be started.

He said the institute has started the production of measles vaccines in June 2018 after an interval of six years and that two million doses have been manufactured since.

“Two million more doses will be manufactured by June 2019 which will be provided to the Expanded Program of Immunisation,” he said, and that the institute will provide 2.5 million packets of oral rehydration supplements to the program during the current fiscal year.

Rabies vaccines will be made available in the market by the end of this month and laboratories in which allergy, typhoid and diarrhoea vaccines are manufactured will be upgraded.

“With the support of the private sector and international organisations, the production of these vaccines will be increased to ensure they are sufficient to meet local demand and so they are exported as well,” Dr Ikram said.

A few years ago, the Executive Committee of National Economic Council had wanted to broaden the basis for indigenous vaccine production to meet the national vaccine demands, to ensure vaccine security and to save foreign exchange.