A Nation of 220m can not Rely on Others

Pandemic has taught us a lesson that “no one will come to help us in global crises”. A nation of 220 million people can not rely on others for literally everything, said Prof. Dr. M. Iqbal Choudhary, Coordinator General, COMSTECH in his inaugural address of the national seminar on ‘Global, strategic and socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 and Paistan’ organized by National Defence University.

The keynote address of the session was delivered by the Chief Guest, General Nadeem Raza, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee.

Dr. Choudhary said that without indigenous science and technology capacity and its linkages with the industry, we will remain dependent on others. Public health care have strategic importance, technology development to fight pandemics will help us in bio-risk management and national biosecurity, he highlighted.

Dr. Choudhary said that Pakistan has the highest load of viral diseases in the world, very few trained professionals in the field, almost no instutional infrastructure in virology and vaccine development.

He said COVID-19 is here to stay and it is fast mutating, creating a need of constant nation-wide genomic surveillance. Our access to vaccines will remain limited, and we would need new vaccines every year, some especially designed for our own mutants.

To meet these current and future challenges, Dr. Choudhary suggested to invest more in health care research. Train at least 1000 young scientists and health professionals in virology research and clinical practices, and strengthen existing virology laboratories. He emphasized the establishment of BSL-4 high-containment lab at national institute of virology, Karachi and at least one high tech viral disease diagnostic set up in each provincial and national capital. Dr. Choudhary also suggested the establishment of ‘National Disease Surveillance Center’ with sample collection units in all major tertiary care hospitals. He stressed the need of setting up of “One Health Institute” to coordiante research on human and animal-borne virus outbreaks

Dr. Choudhary said that we should develop academic and research linkages with virology and genomic research institutions in China under the CPEC programs.  He said that indigenous vaccine, biologicals, and diagnostic development and production facilities may be granted a long term tax holoday along with buy back guarantee. He suggested the establishment of consortium of civil-military R&D institutions with clear plan, deliverable and funding mechanism.

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