Rs 35,000 cr for COVID-19 vaccines will help end pandemic, expedite economic recovery: Vardhan

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New Delhi, Feb 1 (PTI) Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Monday lauded the 2021-2022 Budget, saying the allocation of Rs 35,000 crore for COVID-19 vaccines and the commitment to provide further support will help end this pandemic and expedite economic recovery.

He hailed the 'visionary leadership' of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and 'prudence' of Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman 'for taking us closer to Health For All'.

He thanked Modi and Sitharaman for moving health and well-being to the centre stage of India's governance as the country battles COVID-19 and is also targeting elimination of diseases like TB and immunization of India's children against 12 communicable diseases.

'Investment on health infrastructure in Budget 2021 has increased 2.37 times or 137 per cent. The focus on strengthening three areas -- preventive health, curative health and well-being -- with total allocation to health sector being Rs 2,23,846 crore will be of immense help to the country at this critical juncture,' Vardhan said.

He stated that the government has once again under the leadership of the prime minister fulfilled the commitment of not only providing relief in the times of COVID-19 but has also turned the crisis into an opportunity for further growth and development.

The government on Monday proposed a budget outlay of Rs 2,23,846 crore for health and well-being 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.

In the Union Budget, Rs 71,268.77 crore has been allocated to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, as against Rs 65,011.8 crore allocated in 2020-2021. 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 2,970.30 for the next fiscal as against Rs 2,122.08 crore proposed for 2020-2021 fiscal.

'Rs 35,000 crore allocated for COVID-19 vaccines and the commitment to provide further support as needed will help end this pandemic and expedite economic recovery as well,' Vardhan said.

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

Vardhan termed the PM Aatmanirbhar Swasth Yojana a 'gift of self-reliant healthy India scheme' and said it will develop capacities of primary, secondary and tertiary care, healthcare systems, develop institutions for detection and cure of new and emerging diseases and strengthen the existing National Health Mission independent of it.

'The scheme will strengthen 17,000 rural and 11,000 urban health and wellness centres, set up integrated public health labs in all districts and 3,382 block public health units in 11 states, establish critical care hospital blocks in 602 districts and 12 central institutions”, the health minister added.

On the role played by NCDC and other public health institutions in containing the pandemic, he said, “The National Centre for Disease Control will now have 5 regional branches and 20 metropolitan health surveillance units. The experiences of the country’s year-long fight with COVID have shaped the Union Budget. This will give a tremendous boost to India’s health infrastructure.' He detailed the huge increase in scope of public health which includes the expansion of integrated health information portal to all States/UTs to connect all public health labs, operationalization of 17 new public health units and strengthening of 33 existing public health units at points of entry.

On COVID, other communicable diseases and their prevention through vaccination, he said, “The COVID-19 vaccination drive was inaugurated by the PM on January 16 and is presently being given to healthcare workers and the frontline workers; others along the priority pyramid will be given the vaccine in coming times.' The finance minister has allocated Rs 35,000 crore for it, he said, adding that she will provide more funds if required, which will be a huge boost to the morale of the country.

He also expressed elation at the renewed focus on Jal Jeevan Mission, the second phase of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Urban) and the Clean Air Initiative, which targets the holistic health of India’s citizens as these schemes are designed to reduce the burden of communicable diseases by curbing their transmission and prevent those caused by pollution, according to a Health Ministry statement.

Speaking on the holistic nature of health, Vardhan threw light on Mission Poshan 2.0 which will strengthen nutritional content, delivery, outreach and outcomes. This will merge supplementary nutritional programmes and Poshan Abhiyan and is proposed to adopt and intensify strategy to improve nutritional outcomes across 112 aspirational districts.

Highlighting the importance of clean air in reducing respiratory diseases, he said in order to tackle the burgeoning problem of air pollution, a budget of Rs 2,217 crore has been provided for improvement of 42 urban centres with a million-plus population in this budget. Minister of State for Health Ashwini Choubey termed the budget 'historic' and said it was for the welfare of public. PTI PLB AAR