New Delhi, May 20 : Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Thursday said that his motto has always been ‘Health for those without wealth.
He was speaking at the opening session of the 33rd meeting of Health Ministers of Commonwealth countries themed “Commonwealth Response to COVID-19: Ensuring Equitable Access to Vaccines and Building Resilience for Health Systems and Emergencies”.
Union health Minister pointed that the poor and vulnerable are often left reeling under severe financial distress due to any illness.
Pointing that this pandemic has thus foregrounded the need to intensify efforts towards achieving the ultimate goal of universal health coverage, he said, “My motto has always been ‘Health for those without wealth’.”
Talking on the devastation caused by the pandemic, he said, “The economic cost of this pandemic has already run into hundreds of billions of dollars leading to a significant contraction in the global economy. The road to recovery may be hard and shall only pick up pace once the entire world is able to put the pandemic behind it together.”
He also shared his views on the way forward in the same vein. “We must acknowledge that if the threat continues to loom in any country or region, it holds the potential to spill over and cover the entire globe. No country can remain safe in silos,” he said.
Explaining India’s stance on the Global Strategy to combat Covid-19, Union Health Minister said, “National prevention strategies have been built largely on the prongs of early testing, isolation and treatment of cases along with population wide vaccinations. However, for effectively ending the pandemic, more Covid-19 vaccines need to be developed and once proven to be both safe and efficacious against the virus, must be deployed rapidly across the world.”
“To this end, the WHO-led initiative‘ Access to Covid-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator’ has proven to be a ground-breaking global collaboration which is expediting development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines. COVAX, the vaccine pillar of ACT Accelerator aims to deliver at least two billion vaccines by the end of 2021, covering 20 per cent of the most vulnerable population in about 92 Low and Middle-Income countries,” he said..
He mentioned that India believes that this alone may not be enough and must be supplemented by all multilateral and bilateral platforms in accelerating coordinated action focused on equitable access to vaccines while also ensuring fair and transparent pricing.
The Minister spoke of India’s long held belief of ‘VasudhaivaKutumbakam’, which exalts the entire world as one family which has informed India’s stance on the issue. He reminded member delegates that India has provided Covid-19 vaccines to more than 90 countries under its Vaccine Maitri initiative and is committed to working with all partners to do more.
Outlining how India can help the world, he said, “In addition to the vaccines, cold chain infrastructure, skilled manpower and robust IT infrastructure also needs to be put in place to quickly inoculate our people. Sharing of knowledge, resources and technology, especially with small and vulnerable states is thus imperative to end this global threat.”
Dr. Harsh Vardhan took a strong note to build not only resilient but also transparent global health systems.
In conclusion of his speech he urged states to not just focus on the Covid management but also on Commonwealth’s pre-Covid health priorities and non-Covid health challenges like non-Communicable diseases, immunization, malnutrition that the Commonwealth needs to address together.