Rob L. Wagner روب لستر واقنر

October 16, 2016

Muslim Countries to Collaborate on Vaccine Production

Filed under: Uncategorized — Rob L. Wagner @ 13:13

By Rob L. Wagner

The Arab Weekly

16 October 2016

Jeddah – The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is de­veloping an ambitious plan to establish a multi­national company to pro­duce vaccines and pharmaceuticals for countries with predominately Muslim populations. The OIC plans to include manufacturing and agri­business to create jobs.

“It’s the first project of its kind for the OIC,” OIC spokeswoman Maha Alqeel said. “OIC members are affected the most by polio and malaria and this is just a matter of making those countries self-suffi­cient in producing vaccines.”

Hameed Opeloyeru, assistant secretary-general for economic af­fairs for the OIC, announced the vaccine plan during a recent visit to Riyadh. He said the project was part of consultations with the 57 members of the OIC to determine “how to pool resources to produce vaccines”.

Alqeel said the project remained “on the table” and was moving forward with the assistance of OIC members.

In a separate action in July, the Islamic Advisory Group for Polio Eradication adopted a plan to make a final push to stop the spread of po­lio in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The OIC is a core member of the group.

The OIC would act as a facilita­tor to bring together private com­panies to produce vaccines and other pharmaceutical products to encourage use in countries, such as in Nigeria, Indonesia, Pakistan and Afghanistan, that experience infec­tious diseases.

The biggest challenge for the OIC is to facilitate producing and distributing vaccines in rural ar­eas where immunisation is viewed with suspicion. According to the Foreign Policy Group, polio thrives in conflict zones and countries ex­periencing political turmoil.

Fewer than 100 cases of polio were reported globally in 2015 but Afghanistan and Pakistan are the only two countries where polio re­mains endemic, according to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, which monitors the disease.

Pakistan has seen a 64% reduc­tion in polio cases this year com­pared to the same period in 2015 but the regions of the Khyber-Pe­shawar corridor and Karachi and Quetta are particularly trouble­some in health authorities’ efforts to eradicate the disease. Although the percentage of Pakistani fami­lies refusing polio immunisation for their children is small — about 2% — there are more than 35 million children in the country who need to be immunised.

The Global Islamic Advisory Group, which is headed by the grand imam of the Holy Mosque of Mecca, issued a statement in Feb­ruary 2014 saying that “protection against diseases is obligatory and admissible under Islamic sharia”. The group ruled it is un-Islamic and a threat to humanity to fail to sup­port preventative measures.

To reinforce the message, more than 2,000 religious leaders have been recruited to issue statements on the necessity and safety of the vaccines and to dispel misconcep­tions about the dangers. Imams routinely have councils in rural ar­eas to provide advice and address any religious concerns.

“We are encouraging acceptance of the vaccines,” Opeloyeru said. “We would use Islamic academ­ics to talk to families to make sure these vaccines are accepted. We just want to encourage the immu­nisations in view of the experiences we have had.”

Opeloyeru emphasised the only role the OIC would play is gathering private companies to unite in the common goal of vaccine and phar­maceutical production. The OIC is to play no role in oversight, direc­tion of production nor distribution.

The OIC hopes that by establish­ing pharmaceutical manufacturing in OIC member countries, vaccines will become more readily available, cheaper to produce and ultimately accepted in the more conservative regions of Muslim countries.

Opeloyeru, speaking at the trade fair, said the project will promote investment among OIC members that is expected to generate jobs in economically disadvantaged areas. It will also promote competition among Muslim and non-Muslim countries, he said.

The key, he said, to committing the OIC to establishing a multina­tional company as well as increas­ing intra-OIC trade volume was to boost public-private partnerships.

Opeloyeru said: “The contribu­tion of the private sector in our cur­rent efforts to change the current mono-cultural structure of the OIC economies and dependence… on primary exports is very consider­able. In this regard, the advocacy role of the private sector is crucial.”

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