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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General Studies Pre. Cum Mains Study Material
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