Nationalize vaccine production in the national interest!
the Covid-19 The crisis has exposed not only the weaknesses of the health infrastructure, but also the criminal disregard of the current regime to protect India from the tragic fallout of the second wave. The rot is deeper and more severe.
In terms of public health expenditure as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP), India ranks among the lowest in the world. The average public expenditure on health in lower middle income countries is 2.5% of their GDP, while in India it is paltry 1%. Shamefully, the 2017 National Health Policy promises to increase public health spending to only 2.5% by 2025. Among the BRICS countries, Brazil spends 3.91%, Russia 3%, China 2 , 89% and South Africa 4.36% of the GDP on public health expenditure. In South Asia, Bhutan tops the list with 2.55%, behind India by a solid 1.55% margin.
The ultimate goal of a strong public health infrastructure is to ensure that no major disease outbreaks occur.s. And this is ensured by long-term planning. But this is simply not possible in a situation where private actors become dominant because they are motivated by the sole concern of profit.
The Indian government does not have proper vaccine manufacturing facilities – a tragedy that has been brewing for more than a decade now. Recently, the government announced a plan to include three public sector utilities (PSUs) in the vaccine manufacturing process, Haffkine Biopharmaceuticals, Indian Immunologicals Ltd. and Bharat Immunologicals and Biologicals Ltd. Biotech Ltd., in Chengalpattu, Tamil Nadu, has not been given permission to start manufacturing vaccines. The facility has been inactive for approximately nine years now. In response to the RTI filed by Anand Raj from Madurai, HLL Biotech revealed that between 2013-2019, it generated income of Rs 6.77 crores and suffered a loss of Rs 96.25 crore!
Such criminal negligence on the part of the government has led to a one-sided reliance on private companies for procurement. Respond to Indian and Global Market, The annual turnover of the Serum Institute of India is 59 billion rupees and plans to grow into a 100 billion rupee company by 2022. The Indian government has been exceptionally warm to these private players. Some of the concessions given to indigenous industrial giants directly threatened public life on a large scale and were, to say the least, totally unethical. For example, on January 3, Covishield and Covaxin, manufactured by Serum Institute and Bharat Biotech respectively, received “authorization for restricted use in emergency situations subject to certain regulatory conditions”. The Comptroller General of Medicines of India (DCGI) has given clearance despite the absence of crucial Indian data from the Phase III trial. For Serum’s Covishield, Phase III data from overseas studies were presented to claim efficacy in India and were accepted by DCGI. But for Covaxin, the authorization was subsequently restricted for “use in clinical trial mode”. This allowed the Serum Institute to manufacture 50 million doses before obtaining the required authorization.
First, the sheer helplessness of gThe government is due to the fact that it never considered entering the production of vaccines. And this of course has its roots in history where public health never seemed to be of “national interest”.
Second, the differential treatment of the Serum Institute by the Indian government raises concerns about crony capitalism. Few questions immediately emerge. Why does the Serum Institute offer differential rates to vsentral and sstate governments? Are state governments not part of India? Doesn’t the first article of our Constitution say that “India which is Bharat will be a union of States? Maybe the Poonawalllike have not read the Indian Constitution or have a callous contempt for it. They announced 400 rupees per dose for the states, 600 rupees for private hospitals and 150 rupees for the central government. Bharat Biotech went further and announced its per dose tariffs at 600 rupees for states and 1,200 rupees for private hospitals. The rates bite India’s poor in the face. What drives such high prices if not the thirst for super profits?
Faced with a limited supply, the government is filling the coffers of these monopolies. The two companies are on the verge of getting 4,500 crore rupees to support manufacturing from the Indian government. And after paying such a high amount, the government is again forced to pay the purchase costs, with states spending significantly more per dose. It is economically insensitive. The need of the hour is to obtain the vaccines and to accelerate the production, the demand will be at the top since the vaccine is necessary for all.–the question of the forces of supply and demand fixing prices is therefore out of the question. Input exports could simply stop the pace of manufacturing.
In this situation, when it is more than clear that government intervention is essential, nationaliswould be the best measure to stop the double flow of money, i.e. in the form of subsidies and purchasing costs, in the coffers of big capital. NationalisAction would ensure that only production costs are covered by public funds. More importantly, it would also guarantee a “one nation one rate” for vaccines because the government would have no reason to offer differential rates to states or private hospitals, simply because it would have no profit. fill.
To go further, the government could well give the vaccines for free. The latter is the most sensible way to move forward because at the end of the day, it is public money that the government would use to fund the manufacturing process. Few state governments have decided to provide free vaccination. But here too, procurement costs would be paid from the public purse. The serum institute having reserved 50% of its production for the central government, the States should eventually buy from the center or buy the vaccines at a much higher price from private actors. In both cases, public money will be drained. This exorbitant and insensitive tax loop could well be avoided if the central government takes charge of the production process and distributes the vaccines in an immediate public interest.
Nationalisation would also monitor the number of vaccines exported to other countries. The government would be able to mark states on a priority basis depending on the spread and extent of the pandemic. In other words, the geopolitical discrimination that is widely practiced by the UUnited States summerEuropean Union could well be avoided. The black marketing of vaccines, which has recently become rampant, may well be curbed by serious government intervention.
The greatest achievement of nationalisThe manufacture of vaccines is that of Sputnik V. from Russia. Produced by the public research institute Gamaleya, Sputnik V has shown an efficiency of 92%. Its use has been authorized in more than fifty countries. The nature of the property allowed free vaccination for all Russian citizens. Likewise, Cuba also has a strong public health infrastructure that was created in the face of crippling economic sanctions imposed by the relentless United States. Although a little late, indigenous vaccines are currently in phase III trials and are showing promising results. Instead of procuring the available vaccines, Cuba pledged to develop its own vaccine to facilitate its distribution to the poorest and underdeveloped countries. Reports suggest that Cuba has already received orders for 100 million doses and that the country is preparing for their production. Countries like Iran that are struggling to acquire vaccines in international markets primarily due to U.S. sanctions are working with Cuba to facilitate diversity in phase III trials. Anyway, it should be mentioned that in Cuba, vaccination would be free for its citizens.
A lot of unjustifiable things have been done in the name of nationalism and the national interest by this government. And much of it has benefited the ordinary Indian the least. This is an important opportunity where nationalism could in fact bode well for all of us. The government should not waste time in nationalisvaccine production. But the blind commitment of the current regimes to neoliberalism and its frenzy of selling public assets raises a big question mark over its ability to nationalise in the national interest. Therefore, it is time for the nation – the people – to stand up, to hold the government to account, to immediately demand nationalisation, so that the profit motive is nipped in the bud, but this time in the real national interest!