Union Budget 2021-22: Rs. 35,000 crore allocated for Covid-19 vaccine

New Delhi:  The Union Budget 2021-22 presented in Parliament on Monday (February 1) by the Union Minister for Finance & Corporate Affairs Nirmala Sitharaman clearly reflected the deep imprint the global pandemic of COVID-19 has left on the country’s public health landscape.

Starting her Budget speech with the narration of the country’s fight against COVID-19, and the various timely, graded and proactive measures taken by the Union Government, the Union Budget presented by the Finance Minister strongly positioned Health & Wellbeing as one of the 6 crucial pillars of Aatma Nirbhar Bharat. Healthy India, along with other sectors “will further strengthen the sankalp of Nation First”, she stated while presenting the Budget.

Health & Wellbeing have formed the topmost priority of the Union Government during the ongoing COVID health crisis. It is the foremost of the six crucial pillars that form the foundation of the Union Budget.

Underscoring the significant importance of health and wellbeing for the growth and development of the country, the Budget allocation for the same has been increased to Rs 2,23,846 crore in BE 2021-22 as against this year’s BE of Rs 94,452 crore. This manifests into a sharp increase of 137 per cent. 

Additionally, the Budget has brought a holistic approach to health as it has focused on strengthening three areas: Preventive, Curative, and Wellbeing.

The Finance Minister stated that while the investment on Health Infrastructure in this Budget has increased substantially, “progressively, as institutions absorb more, we shall commit more”.

PM Aatma Nirbhar Swasth Bharat Yojana

Acknowledging the importance of robust health systems as a significant pillar of sustained progress in the health sector, a new centrally sponsored scheme, PM Aatma Nirbhar Swasth Bharat Yojana, will be launched with an outlay of about Rs 64,180 crore over 6 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 are:

1. Support for 17,788 rural and 11,024 urban Health and Wellness Centers

2. Setting up integrated public health labs in all districts and 3382 block public health units in 11 states;
3. Establishing critical care hospital blocks in 602 districts and 12 central institutions;
4. Strengthening of the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), its 5 regional branches and 20 metropolitan health surveillance units;
5. Expansion of the Integrated Health Information Portal to all States/UTs to connect all public health labs;
6. Operationalisation of 17 new Public Health Units and strengthening of 33 existing Public Health Units at Points of Entry, that is at 32 Airports, 11 Seaports and 7 land crossings;
7. Setting up of 15 Health Emergency Operation Centers and 2 mobile hospitals; and
8. Setting up of a national institution for One Health, a Regional Research Platform for WHO South-East Asia Region, 9 Bio-Safety Level III laboratories and 4 regional National Institutes for Virology.

Mission Poshan 2.0

Nutrition has been highlighted as an integral component of the country’s health and wellbeing. To strengthen nutritional content, delivery, outreach, and outcome, the Union Budget has proposed merger of the Supplementary Nutrition Programme and the Poshan Abhiyan. These will form the umbrella of Mission Poshan 2.0. An intensified strategy to improve nutritional outcomes across 112 Aspirational Districts has been proposed.

Vaccines

Development of COVID-19 vaccines found a pride of place in the Union Budget. The Union Finance Minister stated that the “Honourable Prime Minister launched the vaccination drive by crediting and thanking our scientists. We are ever grateful for the strength and rigour of their efforts”. She stated that India has two vaccines available and has begun medically safeguarding not only her own citizens against COVID-19 but also those of 100 or more countries. “It is added comfort to know that two or more vaccines are also expected soon”, she added.

Rs. 35,000 crore have been allocated for COVID-19 vaccine in BE 2021-22. “I am committed to provide further funds if required”, the Finance Minister further said.

In addition, the Pneumococcal Vaccine, a ‘Made in India’ product, which is presently limited to only 5 states, will be rolled out across the country. This will avert more than 50,000 child deaths annually, the Finance Minister informed during the Budget speech.

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