THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 30 September 2020 Weighing the costs (The Hindu)

Weighing the costs (The Hindu)

Mains Paper 2: Health 
Prelims level: COVID-19 vaccine
Mains level: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health


  • With over 6 million cases and the death toll from COVID-19 approaching 100,000, India is entering the first winter of the pandemic.
  • Viral infections, particularly of the influenza variety, are also common at this time of the year and there may be new unknowns in the risks that lie ahead.
  • However, another potential milestone approaches: the probable availability of a vaccine.

Policy on distribution:

  • Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, on multiple occasions has said that an India-made vaccine was likely to be available in “early 2021”.
  • The government already has an expert committee on vaccine distribution.
  • Their job is to decide who gets the vaccine first, how many will be eligible for the early doses, what the costs would be, and whether there should be a cost at all for the majority of Indians, who anyway were the hardest hit by the pandemic in the summer.
  • Storage and supply of vaccines are also problems as dauntingas making one and pose complex challenges in India.
  • The government is yet to make its policy on distribution explicitbut the current thinking appears to be that nobody would be denied a vaccine on the grounds of affordability.
  • There is even discussion that a vaccine may be available via the national immunisation programme.
  • This initiative currently offers at least nine vaccines for preventable diseases free for children and pregnant women.
  • The pandemic’s global nature has meant that even the quest for a vaccine is international.
  • The GAVI Covax alliance has emerged as the largest coordinator of vaccine development as well as distribution of a probable vaccine.
  • Based on a combination of payments by 78 high-income countries and donations, the GAVI Covax aims to ensure that between 15-20% of every country’s population, or at least their most vulnerable, are able to be inoculated first.

Principles of equity:

  • In principle, these are laudableaims and underline principles of equity. A paucity of testing facilities and equipment in March led to stringent restrictions on who could be tested.
  • Though the tests were ‘free’, they were first available only in government facilities and this contributed to a significant pool of untested carriers and a rapid spread of the virus that was only marginally blunted by the lockdown.
  • Only after the number of labs expanded to both public and private labs, restrictions on who could get tested were remove.
  • And a greater variety of tests became available that disease management improved even though testing — though not expensive — was also not free.
  • It is to be anticipated that vaccine delivery will be a protracted process and it will be a long time before the average citizen has access to it.
  • There are at least three Indian companies testing their own vaccines, and so a prohibitively expensive vaccine, besides being unacceptable, is also unlikely.


  • A prohibitively expensive vaccine, besides being unacceptable, will do little good.

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Prelims Questions:

Q.1) With reference to the World Patient Safety Day 2020, consider the following statements:
1. It is being observed on 17 September.
2. This year theme is "Health Worker Safety: A Priority for Patient Safety”.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Answer: C