Updated: February 1, 2021 8:40:40 pm
The Union Budget’s investment in health infrastructure and vaccines was welcomed by Adar Poonawalla, CEO of Serum Institute of India. “We welcome the move for vaccines as it will encourage more manufacturers to take up vaccine production and build India’s capacity. Any investment in health is also welcome and pays us many times over because a healthy individual can perform and disruptions to the economy can be reduced,” Poonawalla told The Indian Express.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday announced a new central scheme with an outlay of Rs 64,180 crore to boost healthcare infrastructure across India amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. The Budget also provided Rs 35,000 crore towards Covid-19 vaccination in the 2021-22 fiscal.
“Globally, spending on healthcare infrastructure and vaccines has given countries and their economies the best bang for their buck. Investments in these areas have prevented hospitalisations and resulted in a healthier and more productive workforce, thereby leading to an efficient economy. Therefore, we welcome the finance minister’s emphasis on healthcare spending and immunisation, especially for Covid-19, and pneumococcal vaccines as this will help India recover rapidly from this pandemic. Hopefully, this will also encourage more innovation and expansion in the sector,” Poonawalla said later in a statement while commenting on the Budget 2021-22.
Dr Krishna Ella, chairman and managing director, Bharat Biotech, said providing Rs 35,000 crore for the Covid-19 vaccination for 2021-22 was a far-reaching announcement. “It’s a great step ahead. The commitment by the finance minister to provide more funds to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic in the country and provide a smooth way for vaccination schemes will help contain and lead the nation towards accomplishing a Covid-19 disease-free India,” he said in a statement issued on Monday.
He also said the layout plan of a Rs 64,180-crore spending plan for healthcare over the next six years on primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare in addition to the National Health Mission was also a welcome move that will strengthen public health services. Through this 17,000 rural and 11,000 urban health and wellness centres and integrated public health laboratories will be set up in each district, while the government focus on three areas — preventive health, curative health and well-being — was also reassuring, he added.
Suchitra Ella, joint managing director, Bharat Biotech, said, “The new health infra schemes with significantly higher outlay of Rs 35,000 crore for India’s mega Covid-19 vaccination drive is a huge fiscal medicine to contain the pandemic, reduce disease burden for the population and the economy. A record total outlay of Rs 2,23,846 crore for health and well-being of the nation is also a well-thought announcement in this budget, with focus on preventive and curative health. It’s encouraging to note the creation of nine biosafety laboratories (BSL) in the Budget that will boost research and scientific discoveries.”
Dr Gagandeep Kang, top vaccine scientist and vice-chair of Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) — a global partnership seeking to proactively develop vaccines for epidemics — told The Indian Express that she was glad to see a much-needed and welcome investment in health infrastructure and vaccines.
“India’s vaccines for Covid-19 and other diseases are important for the country and the world. Strengthening adult immunisation in India through Covid-19 has the potential to allow us to better tackle the delivery of additional important vaccines like new approaches to tuberculosis vaccination, typhoid, rabies and influenza, where vaccines exist but their potential is as yet unrealised. Investments in new Covid-19 vaccines will also have knock-on effects to increase R & D (research and development) for new platforms and targets so we are better prepared for the next pandemic,” Dr Kang said.
“The thrust and focus on health in India’s budget announcement for 2021 is a testimony to the country’s commitment to not just fight the Covid-19 pandemic but to build a stronger and resilient health system. One of the greatest lessons this pandemic has taught the world is that health needs to be a priority. India has demonstrated this. India has not only proactively and belligerently dealt with the pandemic, it has and continues to support countries in the Southeast Asia region and beyond, providing essential medical supplies and now vaccines to protect vulnerable populations against the pandemic,” said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, regional director, WHO, Southeast Asia Region, in a statement.
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