People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


Vol. XXXIII

No. 42

October 18, 2009

 

CPI(M) Leader Draws Attention To Impending Health Disaster

 

IN a letter written on October 12 to the union minister for health and family welfare, Ghulam Nabi Azad, CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Brinda Karat, who is a member of Rajya Sabha, has expressed serious concern over the impending shortage of vaccines in the country, required for the universal immunisation programme. The letter described as ironic the situation that while national attention has been focussed on the production of new vaccines for swine flu with the private sector competing to capture the market, the more basic needs of crores of our children for protection against diseases, some of which are life threatening, are being neglected.

In this regard, the letter also quoted the information provided by the ministry of health in response to an RTI application. According to it, the extents of shortage are as given alongside:

 

 

 

Requirement (In Crores)

2008-09 Procurement

2009-10 Procurement

Shortage

BCG

10.25

8.89

10.11

 

DPT

18.19

14.10

14.31

9 crores

DT

4.79

4.47

0

 

OPV

19.79

17.88

16.63

3 crores

TT

17.83

13.78

13.69

3.14 crores

Measles

4.78

4.98

3.88

90 lakhs

Total

75.63

64.10

58.32

 

Shortage

 

11.22

17

 

% of Shortage

 

14.50 %

22 %

 

 

Thus, the letter said, the crucial protection essential against diseases like diptheria, measles and even against tetanus is being gravely undermined by the shortages to the extent of 17 crores doses. Shockingly, the situation which was bad enough in 2008-09 with an overall shortfall of around 14.5 per cent, further deteriorated in 2009-10 to a shortfall of 22 per cent between the requirement and the procurement.

The letter pointed out that, according to government statistics, the percentage of children covered through the universal immunisation programme has shown a steady increase. If the figures are correct and the projected requirements are accurate, then the failure of the ministry to procure an adequate number of vaccines has to be explained and accountability fixed. If, on the other hand, there are adequate stocks with the central and state governments, the implications are that the figures of immunisation are false and exaggerated and that the requirement is less since a lesser number of children are getting immunised. In either case, the letter said, the central issue is of an undermining of the universal immunisation programme and the serious consequences it will have for crores of our children, infants and newborn babies.

The letter also castigated the closure of the vaccine producing public sector units by the previous UPA government, calling it yet another aspect of the shortages and one that is related to the government’s short-sighted policy. It reminded the minister that, after his assumption of office, he had given a categorical statement in parliament in this regard and that the assurance was appreciated across party lines. He had then promised that the units would be reopened for production of vaccines. The letter regretted that this has not happened to this day and our dependence on private sector has consequently grown. 

The CPI(M) MP urged the minister to look into the issue of shortages of vaccines and take urgent steps to procure vaccines in adequate quantities to avert a health disaster. She also asked the minister to ensure that the authorities concerned take urgent and adequate steps to restart full production of vaccines in the public sector units which had been closed down.