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December 23, 2017

‘Pakistan must prepare for cuts in health support programmes from 2020’


December 23, 2017

Sindh Health Secretary Dr Fazlullah Pechuho has called for efforts to boost local production of vaccines to meet the country’s growing needs, clarifying that the major donors, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, would not be continuing with their health support programmes after a few years.

“The donor commitment for vaccines is declining and we have to make arrangements to fill this gap when GAVI and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation support disappears. There should be arrangements for the local production of vaccines as this will help improve the financial sustainability of programs,” said Dr Pechuho said while speaking at a four-day capacity-building workshop on the planning of financially sustainable national vaccination programmes. The workshop was held at the Aga Khan University on Friday.

Health department officials, immunisation programme managers, health policy planners and private sector officials from Pakistan and Afghanistan attended the four-day skill-building workshop.

Pakistan and Afghanistan rely on the financial support of GAVI for their nationwide routine immunisation programmes. From 2020, Pakistan will need to take on a greater responsibility for financing the provision of these life-saving vaccines as GAVI phases off support in order to focus on the needs of the world’s poorest countries.

Pakistan is currently in the preparatory transition phase and this shift requires the country’s health planners to develop the advanced skills needed to move towards self-sufficiency.

“We’ve applied economic concepts and used real-life case studies from around the world to share practical lessons on how to plan a sustainable response to forthcoming financing challenges. Interestingly, we have kept a mix of public and private sector trainees so that we can develop a network of knowledgeable resource people who can collectively respond through pooling expertise and blended financing,” said Dr Shehla Zaidi, regional trainer and an associate professor in the Community Health Sciences and the Department of Women and Child Health, AKU.

The workshop is the first of three such capacity-building workshops funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on vaccine economics and financing. During the workshop faculty from the Aga Khan University, the Johns Hopkins University, and senior figures from the the World Health Organisation (WHO), provided training sessions to immunisation sector stakeholders.

Speaking about the goals of the workshop, WHO’s Representative to Pakistan Dr Mohammad Assai said: “Vaccines save over two million lives a year and represent one of the most cost-effective ways to protect children and adults from disease. By addressing critical gaps in the financial planning and management of immunisation programmes, these workshops will ensure that vital health programmes can manage forthcoming challenges. They will also make sure that decisions to introduce new vaccines are based on sound evidence.”

The workshop ended on Friday with a panel discussion featuring a mix of public and private sector representatives from Pakistan and Afghanistan, moderated by literary critic and former public health specialist Asif Farrukhi, and chaired by health secretary Fazlullah Pechuho.

“The sessions under the workshop represent the university’s efforts to support Goal 3 of the Sustainable Development Goals which call for countries around the world to ensure the availability of safe, effective, quality and affordable vaccinations,” an official said.

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