The healthcare vision that led to the 100 crore vaccine milestone in India
India’s feat of 100 crore in vaccinations against Covid-19 could not have been achieved without the efforts of the country’s scientists, health warriors, citizens and the government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The feat will give a big boost to the global fight against the pandemic.
The task required determined leadership that could foresee possible challenges. The direction was set at a meeting chaired by PM Modi in May 2020. The Center has extended its support at every stage – research, regulatory approvals, rationalization of cold storage facilities, construction of the CoWIN portal and fight against initial hesitation about vaccines.
In fact, PM Modi’s public health initiatives began shortly after he took office. On October 2, 2014, he launched the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) with the aim of making open defecation in India within five years. One of the largest cleanliness programs in the world, SBM has delivered remarkable transformation and visible health benefits.
Studies have shown that it has improved children’s health and nutrition, in addition to giving women dignity. Jal Jeevan’s mission to provide tap water connection to every household will be a game-changer in preventing water-borne illnesses. In 2017, the Modi government launched a new national health policy to address the current and emerging challenges necessitated by the changing socio-economic and epidemiological landscapes since the last policy was developed in 2002. The Ayushman Bharat program, launched in 2018, is the largest health insurance plan in the world covering a population of 50 crore. It has so far benefited more than two million Indians.
The CoWIN portal and the unprecedented expansion of telemedicine during the pandemic represent the government’s remarkable successes in harnessing advanced technologies for health care. The Ayushman Bharat digital mission will connect patients with doctors and hospitals across the country.
In 2003, the country only had one AIIMS. Under the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, a policy to add five new AIIMS was developed and in 2014 Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a policy to develop such institutes in each state. Today, work is underway to create more than 150 medical schools. More than 30,000 MBBS places and 24,000 postgraduate medical places have been added since the Modi government took office.
The PLI program will ensure a level playing field for domestic manufacturers of medical devices. When the pandemic hit last year, India was not equipped to make PPE kits and relied on imported protective gear. From a real shortage to manufacturing 2 lakh PPE kits and 2 lakh N-95 masks every day, India has taken less than a year to realize its aatmanirbhar vision in manufacturing medical equipment .
In line with the Prime Minister’s vision, Karnataka has significantly strengthened its health infrastructure. The state had only 725 intensive care beds before the Covid epidemic. Currently there are 3,877 intensive care beds in medical schools and public hospitals.
There were 4,847 oxygen beds before Covid. They increased to 28,447 and regular beds increased from 41,378 to 50,629. Before Covid, public hospitals and medical schools had an oxygen capacity of 320 MT, which was increased to 1,207 MT in August 2021 In Wave 2, oxygen logistics were a huge challenge – the number of cylinders before Covid was 2,180, but they have grown to 13,588 cylinders now. The number of oxygen concentrators increased from 585 before Covid to 6,511 in September.
Karnataka is leading the implementation of Health and Welfare Centers (HWC) under the umbrella of Ayushman Bharat Yojana during the year 2020-21.
The state modernized 3,300 centers until March 31, 146% more than the target. Karnataka also exceeded the Centre’s goal of transforming PHC into HWC. The state is leading the vaccination campaign across southern India, having administered more than 6.17 crore in doses and is aiming to fully immunize the entire adult population by the end of December.
From promoting well-being to improving preventive health care, from increasing medical seats to encouraging the manufacture of medical equipment, from universal health insurance coverage to the creation of a digital health infrastructure, India’s approach to health care under PM has been holistic and inclusive. He laid the foundation for a healthier and more prosperous New India.
This column first appeared in the printed edition on October 28, 2021 under the title “Une bullet dans le bras”. The author is Minister of Health and Medical Education in the Government of Karnataka