President Arif Alvi visited the National Institute of Health (NIH) on Wednesday, where he was briefed on the major initiatives undertaken to transform NIH by its executive director Professor Dr Amir Ikram. Health Minister Aamer Mehmood Kiani, Health Secretary Captain (r) Zahid Saeed and Health Director General Dr Assad Hafeez were present on the occasion. Aamer Mehmood Kiani said NIH is a national asset and has enormous potential. “The NIH is contributing towards achieving Sustainable Development Goals. One of our major targets was reviving the production of measles vaccine at NIH. This was critical in the backdrop of growing incidence of the disease and epidemics of the disease in different parts of the country. With concerted collective effort we were able to achieve this objective,” he said. Another major issue was up-gradation of laboratory facilities, a task that had been successfully undertaken. “By Allah Almighty’s grace BSL-3 laboratory that conforms to global standards was our first initiative at NIH,” he said. NIH Executive Director Professor Dr Amir Ikram said the production of a number of vaccines including measles, tetanus and diphtheria has been started. “Landmark initiatives have been taken to bring NIH at par with international standards,” he said. Production of measles vaccine for children which was stalled for seven years has been made functional. Rs 751 million have been approved for production of sera which is a major step forward and would meet critical demands of vaccine and sera, shared Dr Amir Ikram. “It is expected that the institute will be able to meet half of the country’s requirement for anti snake venom by June 2019. We are currently producing around 40,000 doses annually which is a fifth of the country’s requirement,” he said. He said we cannot export vaccines without conforming to current manufacturing practices. “We have prepared a policy in this regard which will be launched soon. This will enable us to export vaccines. Today, the institute is undertaking successful implementation of five years road map of international health regulations and Global Health Security Agenda along with implementation of Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response System in the country. The transparency and good governance at the institute has facilitated collaboration with internationally reputed health organisations that are supporting the reform process. It is for the first time that master plan of NIH has been prepared. The institute has been designated as National Public Health Institute which broadens its mandate to prevent and control diseases. For the first time Public Health Act has been drafted whereas national laboratory policy, national bio-safety policy, case definition book and bioprism. We’ll leave no stone unturned to take this institute further as the leading public health institution of the region,” resolved Dr Amir Ikram. He said one million doses of measles vaccines have been produced whereas two million will be ready by June 2019. The president lauded the efforts undertaken to uplift NIH as it is the country’s premier public health institution. He underscored the importance of research and aid NIH was performing important function of public health research. He asked for the institute to continue to provide opportunities to public health professionals to undertake research in the field. The president went round various divisions of the institute and lauded the efforts of NIH executive director. On December 23, Aamir Mehmood Kiani, while talking to an open court in Rawalpindi, had said that the government is paying special heed to improve facilities at public sector hospitals in the country. Separately, Arif Alvi said that strengthening private sector through promotion of local goods and industry is of paramount importance for economic development of country. The president said this while talking to the delegations of Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce & Industry and Sargodha Chamber of Commerce & Industry who called on him separately at the Aiwan-e-Sadr. The president emphasised that revival of national economy is the top most priority of the government in which industrial and business community should also play their constructive role. He stressed upon the need to increase our exports in order to decrease the trade deficit. He underlined that steps are being taken to create business and investment friendly country and to provide maximum facilities to businessmen and investors. The president noted that government’s policies are in the right direction and urged the chambers of commerce and other trade organisations to promote research in various field so that new opportunities for the national industry and commerce could be determined in accordance with international trends. Published in Daily Times, December 27th 2018.