ISLAMABAD - Prime Minster Muhammad Nawaz Sharif on Friday said that mother and child safety through proper immunization and better nutrition are a major priority for the government.

“Routine immunisation is an important area and all the provincial governments have been directed to take effective measures for speeding up the process so that the areas of the country lagging behind in immunisation are brought up to the level of developed parts,” said the prime minister while talking to a high-level mission of Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) led by CEO, Dr. Seth Berkley at the PM House. Other members of the delegation included representatives from WHO Dr Ala Alwan and Bill Gates Foundation Dr Chris Elias.

The delegation appreciated the personal interest taken by the prime minister and the active role played by the Health Ministry in taking steps for the implementation of polio eradication programme as well as in focusing on routine immunisation. They also appreciated the Punjab government for targeting 80 per cent coverage in routine immunisation in the province by year end.

The prime minister appreciated the support lent by GAVI for immunisation in Pakistan. He said we should make maximum use of the support being provided by GAVI to save our future generations.

Federal Minister for Health Saira Afzal Tarar informed the prime minister that the confusion regarding procurement of vaccines in the aftermath of 18th amendment has recently been cleared and now federal government would procure the vaccines through a National Procurement Committee having representatives from all the provinces. She said this would not only streamline the system but also save Rs1 billion annually.

Talking about the polio eradication initiative, she said a concrete and robust plan has been put in place and its proper implementation would bring about drastic reduction in polio cases.

The WHO representative informed the meeting that 25 per cent reduction can be brought about in child mortality in Pakistan through immunization and 30 per cent cases of child mortality can be prevented through better nutrition.

He said these two are closely linked to each other and concerned provincial government departments should work in coordination with the Ministry of Health to overcome the challenges.

He said international best practices should be replicated in Pakistan to achieve better results. The delegation appreciated the ministry of health for taking the bold step of increasing tobacco health warnings. Federal Minister for Planning and Development, Ahsan Iqbal also attended the meeting.