Govt earmarks Rs 35,000 crore for COVID-19 vaccine in Union Budget

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New Delhi, Feb 1 (PTI) The government on Monday proposed a budget outlay of Rs 2,23,846 crore for health and wellbeing in 2021-2022, an increase of 137 per cent from the previous year, with Rs 35,000 crore earmarked for COVID-19 vaccine in the upcoming fiscal.

Presenting the budget, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman positioned health and wellbeing as one of the six crucial pillars of 'Atmanirbhar Bharat' (self-reliant India).

'Health and wellbeing have formed the topmost priority of the Union government during the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis. It is the foremost of the six crucial pillars that form the foundation of the Union Budget,' she said.

'I have provided Rs 35,000 crore for COVID-19 vaccine in Budget Estimates 2021-22. I am committed to providing further funds, if required,' she said.

Lauding the Budget, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said Rs 35,000 crore allocated for COVID-19 vaccines and commitment to providing further support as needed will help end this pandemic and expedite economic recovery as well.

Underscoring the importance of health and wellbeing for the growth and development of the country, the allocation has been increased to Rs 2,23,846 crore in budget estimate 2021-22 as against this year's budget estimate of Rs 94,452 crore.

In this budget, Rs 71,268.77 crore has been allocated to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. In the last budget, Rs 65,011.8 crore was initially allocated for the financial year 2020-2021, but in revised estimates it was increased to Rs 78,866 crore because of COVID-19.

The finance minister also announced that a new centrally sponsored scheme, Prime Minister Aatmanirbhar Swasth Bharat Yojana, will be launched with an outlay of about 64,180 crore over six years.

This will develop capacities of primary, secondary, and tertiary care health systems, strengthen existing national institutions, and create new institutions, to cater to detection and cure of new and emerging diseases.This will be in addition to the National Health Mission.

The main interventions under the scheme include support for rural and urban health and wellness centres, setting up integrated public health labs in all districts and block public health units in 11 states, establishing critical care hospital blocks in 602 districts and 12 central institutions, strengthening of the National Centre for Disease Control, its five regional branches and 20 metropolitan health surveillance units.

It also includes expansion of integrated health information portal to all states/UTs to connect all public health labs, operationalisation of 17 new public health units and strengthening of existing public health units at points of entry setting up of 15 health emergency operation centres and two mobile hospitals, a national institution for health, a regional research platform for WHO South East Asia Region, nine Bio-Safety Level III laboratories and four regional National Institutes for Virology.

An allocation of Rs 2,663.00 crore has also been made to the Department of Health Research in the 2021-22 budget.

The Ministry of AYUSH has been allocated Rs 2970.30 for the next fiscal as against Rs 2,122.08 crore proposed for 2020-2021 fiscal.

The pneumococcal vaccine, a made in India product, is limited to only 5 states at present. It will now be rolled out across the country. 'It will avert more than 50,000 child deaths annually,' Sitharaman said.

She stressed that investment in health infrastructure in budget 2021-22 has increased substantially.

'Progressively, as institutions absorb more, we shall commit more,' she said. PTI PLB NSD NSD