After Splurging Almost Rs 3,000 Cr on a Statue, Modi Govt Asks for Rs 100 Cr Aid for Polio Vaccines
Sanofi, the supplier of the inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV) has declared that it would be increasing the drug’s prices in 2019.
Following the announcement by Sanofi, the sole vaccine-maker of inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV), that it would be increasing the prices of the IPV, the Modi government has been reportedly forced to approach Gavi, the international organisation that provides funds to poorer countries to help with their vaccination program. The government’s move to request for increased funding from Gavi also throws spotlight on the Statue of Unity that was recently built — and inaugurated — at a cost of around Rs. 2,989 crores.
Dual Problems for IPV: Shortage and Price Hike
Reportedly, there are two problems besieging the IPV supply in the market globally. One, that there is a shortage of the vaccine across the world, with the UNICEF stating, in 2018, that the problem of shortage of the vaccine was not likely to be eliminated prior to 2023.
Secondly, the price hike of the IPV does not pertain to India alone but has been made uniformly across all buying markets. In India—under the government immunisation programme — IPV is sold at Rs 61 (€0.75) per dose.
Following the price hike, the IPV would be sold at about Rs 147 (€1.81) per dose in 2019. This would be further increased to around Rs 181 (€2.18) per dose from 2020 up to 2022.
If the government is unable to procure the vaccine, it would result in the drug going out-of-stock which would mean that the immunisation programme for this drug would need to be halted until it is restocked.
Focus on India’s Medical Budgetary Allocation
The Telegraph reported that India had a requirement of around 10 million doses of the IPV to immunise every child with the vaccine.
In India, two fractional doses of the vaccine are administered through intradermal injections for children at six and 14 weeks respectively. Increasing in the price of the IPV in 2019, from Rs 61 to Rs. 147 would mean that the government’s cost would correspondingly increase by around Rs 86 crores.
Speaking to the Telegraph, a spokesperson for Gavi said, “The price increase is global and Gavi is aware that this has put a significant, unforeseen strain on India’s immunisation budget. Gavi and its partners are exploring options with the Indian government.”
However, doctors and medical experts have countered this by stating that India is not a poor country anymore and it does not have the choice to potentially stop vaccinating the children because of the drug facing a stock-out.
T Jacob John, paediatrician, virologist and a well-regarded polio authority, commented, “Whatever the cost, we have to pay and buy. Gavi may or may not help, but India is no longer a poor country.” John, who is the emeritus professor at Vellore Christian Medical College also observed, “The health ministry will have to justify a higher budget and protect our investment for polio eradication and secure it through continued universal IPV immunisation.”
The current medical budgetary allocation, thus, presents a startling figure. Reportedly, in its first year, the government’s lofty Ayushman Bharat scheme had an allocation of Rs 2,000 crores for its first year of initiation. That this amount is only a fraction of the amount spent in the construction of Sardar Patel’s statue in Kevadiya has, then, added insult to injury.