IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs – 12th September, 2016
TOPIC:General Studies 2
Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector or Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
Important International institutions, agencies and fora- their structure, mandate.
India to lead global coalition to fight epidemics
Being a key member of newly formed Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), India is all set to lead the global fight against epidemics.
Recent epidemics (Ebola in West Africa and Zika in S. America) have exposed serious flaws in the world’s capacity to prepare for and respond to infectious disease outbreaks.
Existence of vaccines could have slowed, halted or even prevented an epidemic in each outbreak, thereby saving many lives and prevent profound social and economic disruption in the countries affected.
Though Ebola proved that vaccines can be developed quickly but it is not rational to continue to rely on ad-hoc partnerships and the goodwill of a handful of companies.
Hence, there was a need of sustainable model for epidemic vaccine development.
Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI)
Mission– to stop future epidemics by developing new vaccines for a safer world.
Vaccine development is not quick enough to start long before an epidemic so that final clinical trials or emergency deployment can begin swiftly in an outbreak.
It typically takes more than 10 years to make vaccines that work and are safe.
Once a vaccine is created, complex regulations and laws that vary from country to country can delay getting vaccines to the people who desperately need them.
CEPI aims to overcome these barriers with a new model for funding vaccine developments against epidemic diseases to contribute to the health security the world needs. (The idea of CEPI was planted in a journal report ‘“Establishing a Global Vaccine-Development Fund” in 2015)
CEPI-the institution– It is a new alliance between governments, industry, academia, philanthropy, intergovernmental institutions, such as the World Health Organization, and civil society.
Founding partners: Dept of Biotechnology, Ministry of S&T, Government of India, Government of Norway, Wellcome Trust, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and World Economic Forum
Governed by- Interim Board chaired by Professor K VijayRaghavan, Secretary, Department of Biotechnology.
India’s role as a leader
The intensity of disease outbreak depends on the mode of transmission which can spread it rapidly to affect people very far from where the outbreak starts. Here, vaccines offer the potential to be deployed rapidly and on scale to prevent both disease and its further transmission of diseases that are known and yet to be known.
In such case, India has recognised the preparedness to handle such disease outbreaks which also includes strategies for prevention.
Also, India has the scientific talent and capacity to respond to any exigency, as was witnessed in case of H1N1 outbreak. With right incentives and partnerships, India could help countries, regional or international agencies to respond to any pandemic or epidemic in a quick, efficient and affordable manner.
India will prepare vaccines for diseases that have the potential for causing outbreaks and not focus only on common diseases like rotavirus. Rotavirus vaccine by Bharat biotech was the last vaccine developed in India which underwent an ‘effectiveness or efficacy’ study. It is currently being used by the MOHFW in four States. Chikungunya vaccine made in India remains to be evaluated for its effectiveness.
Thus, India will collaborate with governments and agencies like WHO, the Wellcome Trust and others to develop the strategies for partnerships, technical development, regulatory and ethical approaches and find the resources and commitments needed for the coalition.
Human trials precaution
Phase 1- The vaccine is first tested in a small number of healthy people as for testing any new vaccine, safety is paramount.
Phase 2- Next slightly larger number of people to figure out what dose is best to produce the best immune response.
Phase 3- The larger scale phase 3 efficacy studies to test whether the vaccine can prevent disease in its target populations.
While the phase 1 and 2 studies can be done anywhere, phase 3 studies require a population where the disease is reasonably likely to occur/occurring.
The new coalition plans to develop vaccines through phase 1 and 2, by applying the highest standards for safety in these studies.
Controlled Human Infection Model (CHIM)- In more industrialised countries, a unique form of volunteer studies is being introduced where disease is actually induced in people in a tightly controlled setting and the ability of the vaccine to prevent disease is characterised. This puts few people at risk when testing vaccines.
However, this requires volunteers who are altruistic and have great understanding of the risks of the experiments.
There are currently no plans to do such studies in India.
The vaccines will be chosen from a list of 11 that WHO put together as part of a report called An R&D Blueprint for Action to Prevent Epidemics.
It includes Chikungunya, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and the related severe acute respiratory syndrome, Crimean-Congo Haemorrhagic fever, Nipah virus.
However, Ebola vaccine will be a priority.
CEPI will prioritise infectious diseases that have:
The potential to become global public health emergencies
Feasible development approaches for vaccines
The coalition will focus on diseases which do not have a large market in global terms.
There is a perception that India will be the pharmaceutical hub of the world and also the laboratory for the world. Thus, under this new role, India will have to ensure global leadership, especially in having a say on ethical practices in these sectors.
Ethical practices relate to
The development of drugs, vaccines and other products which is the domain of academia and regulatory authorities.
Manufacturing of drugs and to their marketing and use, where manufacturers have the greatest role.
In development and testing, adherence to the highest ethical standards ensuring that participants in studies completely understand the purpose as well as the risks and benefits of their participation.
This requires strong credible academic partners and regulations, and the Drugs Controller General of India has already taken the lead in improving the standards of clinical testing in India.
India is home to one sixth of the world’s people who live and travel everywhere. Thus, India will play a role in working with less resourced countries of Asia and Africa along with industrialised countries.
The India-Africa Health Summit, organised by the ICMR is an example of the kind of engagement where India could work with African countries that are likely to be affected by outbreaks and need to build capacity in science, medicine and manufacturing.
Connecting the dots:
Initiation of Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) gives a hope for epidemic free world. Explain the need of CEPI and role of India in this organisation.
Indian economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.
Disaster and disaster management.
Solution to water crisis
In News:In Bihar, more than five million people have been affected and 6,50,000 displaced from their homes; in Assam 1.8 million people were affected with 2,40,000 displaced, and in UP 8,70,000 were affected. Floods also occurred in areas that were earlier not considered flood prone, such as the cities of Jaipur, Jodhpur and the southern districts of arid Rajasthan. Even in Madhya Pradesh, 300,000 people were affected.
There is a growing concern that floods cause large-scale damage to crops, cattle, property and even human lives, and this trend is increasing over time that creates huge loss to exchequer.
Flood control is a developmental as well as humanitarian issue.
Most of the floods in India occur in the Ganga-Brahmaputra-Barak basin as the distance between the world’s highest peaks in the Himalayas and the outlet at the Bay of Bengal is short and the contributing tributaries like Kosi, Gandak, Ghaghara and others disgorge large volumes and devastate the fertile plains ofeastern Uttar Pradesh, northern Bihar, West Bengal and Assam.
An enduring solution
India gets “too much” water (about 75 per cent of annual precipitation) during 120 days of the monsoon season (June to September) and “too little” for the remaining 245 days.
This skewed water availability has to be managed and regulated for its consumption throughout the year.
Leaders of independent India quickly embarked upon a number of large multi-purpose river valley projects such as Bhakra-Nangal, Hirakud, Nagarjuna Sagar, Rihand etc. to store water for smoothening its supplies throughout the year.
Development of such river valley projects further lost interest:
Due to changed priorities towards heavy industrialization since 1956.
Due to widespread inefficiencies and corruption in large irrigation projects.
The issue of resettlement of displaced people became a rallying point for many NGOs to oppose these projects, leading to drying up of funds from the World Bank.
As a result, in 2015, India’s per capita water storage capacity through dams was abysmally low at 194 cubic metre (m3).
India is way below in storing water when it falls in abundance, resulting in floods during monsoons and deficiency of water later. This also lowers cropping intensity (less than 140), meaning less than 40% of India’s farm land is double cropped.
Lasting solution lies in a “buffer stocking of water” during the monsoon months and releasing it during lean seasons and can be done over ground through dams, or underground, by recharging aquifers.
Flood control strategies also need to include the use of smart geo-spatial techniques for flood forecasting and construction and strengthening of embankments at critical locations.
Inter-linking of rivers can be made at intra-state level, particularly within Bihar and Madhya Pradesh.
The time is also ripe to crank up the Ganges Water Machine through Underground Taming of Floods for Irrigation (UTFI), where surplus flood water is directed to aquifers through well-designed structures placed in ponds and other depression areas and evacuated through large-scale pump irrigation during the dry season.
There is a need to promote flood-tolerant“scuba rice”, sugarcane, jute and high-value aquatic crops in this region; access to affordable crop, livestock and asset insurance products; and education and preparedness to live with the floods.
Cascading check dams, drips and sprinkler irrigation can also help in this direction.
What needs to be developed is a holistic approach at basin level, encompassing credible resettlement policy for displaced people, and also supported by pro-active hydro-diplomacy amongst riparian countries can thus render rich dividends.
Connecting the dots:
India is well endowed with fresh water resources. Critically examine why it still suffers from water scarcity.
The recent floods in different states has affected and displaced many from home. Discuss various factors that can help to curb the situation.