National Institute of Health is one of the most prestigious institutions of the country involved in multi-disciplinary public health-related activities like diagnostic services, research, and production of various vaccines for over 40 years. The idea of establishing a National Health Center (NHC) was conceived in the early 1960s, which started functioning in 1965 in Islamabad. Directorate of Nutrition Survey and some other health-related research organizations were shifted to NHC. Later on, all these independently working departments were integrated and designated as National Health Laboratories (NHL – Islamabad).
This organization was given the status of an autonomous organization like the National Institute of Health (NIH) under the Ministry of Health (MoH) through a presidential ordinance XLIII of 1980, to facilitate international and regional collaboration, seek technical assistance and participate in global disease control programs more effectively.
Since its emergence as an autonomous organization, it has made numerous developments in the field of laboratory diagnosis, biological manufacturing, food and drug quality control, research & development, and training facilities. The institute is actively involved in the laboratory and field investigation of infectious diseases including etiology and epidemiology. Emphasis has also been laid on human resource development and capacity building for the benefit of the institute in particular and the benefit of the public in general.
The institute is a WHO collaborating centre for viral diagnostics and regional reference laboratory for polio, in addition to being a national reference centre for diagnosis of Influenza. It also works as the National Appellate Laboratory for quality control of drugs and is the public analyst laboratory for the quality control of food for the federal territory, Islamabad. NIH also conducts numerous international, regional, and national seminars, symposia, and other related activities.
Additionally, NIH has recently been designated as the National Public Health Institute with a broader mandate of disease surveillance. The establishment of state-of-the-art ‘Emergency Operations Centre’ and ‘Information Technology Hub’ has now put us on par with the leading health organization. The institute stands as a focal point for IHR 2005 and also provides support for the implementation of GHSA in Pakistan. It is indeed a national asset.
The Honorable President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Mr Arif Alvi has also visited the National Institute of Health (NIH) last year, where he was briefed on the major initiatives taken by NIH for COVID-19 response. The President lauded the efforts of NIH during the COVID-19 epidemic. Furthermore, Minister for Planning, Development, and Special
Initiatives, Asad Umar visited the National Institute of Health and appreciated the significant role of NIH in the COVID-19 epidemic.
Moreover, the NIH has earned massive respect under the dynamic leadership of Major General Aamir Ikram who is Executive Director as the institution has taken various initiatives in response to the global pandemic, COVID-19. For instance, the National Institute of Health (NIH) is working on a plan to develop a single-dose coronavirus vaccine for Pakistan. “Our team is ready to undertake this task, while a Chinese team is already here to oversee the exercise,” NIH Executive Director Major General Aamer Ikram told the National Assembly standing committee on national health services.
Moreover, he has said that the NIH had carried out a clinical trial of the Chinese COVID-19 vaccine CanSinoBio, placing the country among the first few to do so. China had been formally asked to transfer the vaccine technology and raw material for the vaccine will reach the country shortly, the NIH official said. The process of manufacturing the COVID-19 vaccine will begin following the imminent restoration of the relevant NIH plant, which was closed a few years ago. The leadership and the NIH team deserve special appreciation for doing extraordinary work during these hard times.