1. The largest funding for the development of a vaccine for COVID-19 has come from the private sector. What does it tell? Is the private sector filling in the gaps created by the inherent inefficiencies of public institutions? Critically comment.
COVID-19 के वैक्सीन के विकास के लिए सबसे बड़ा निधिकरण निजी क्षेत्र से आया है। यह क्या बताता है? क्या निजी क्षेत्र सार्वजनिक संस्थानों की अंतर्निहित अक्षमताओं द्वारा निर्मित अंतराल को पाट रहा है? समालोचनात्मक टिप्पणी करें।
Demand of the question:
It expects students to express their views over the roles played by private as well as public health institutions while funding for the development of COVID-19 vaccine. It also expects students to analyse both aspects of whether private sector is filling the gaps created by the inherent inefficiencies of public institutions or not.
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc, researchers worldwide are working around the clock to find a vaccine against genetic sequence of SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing the COVID-19 pandemic. With respect to funding for the development of vaccine it seems that private institutions have got the front row but it doesn’t mean that public institutions are lagging in it.
Just as automakers famously shifted to make tanks and planes during World War II, today’s global giants Moderna, Altimmune, BioNTech & Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, etc. are investing tremendous amount of money in the research for vaccine development of COVID-19.
COVID-19 pandemic has exposed lacunas in the public health institutions across the world:
- Paucity of Resources: Doctors work in extreme conditions ranging from overcrowded out-patient departments, inadequate staff, medicines and infrastructure.
- Overburdened Doctors: Owing to disproportionate Doctor Patient ratio, limited number of doctors, nurses and medical staff have to cater to a large number of patients.
- Inadequate Funding: Expenditure on public health funding has been consistently low in India (approximately 1.3% of GDP). As per OECD, India’s total out-of-pocket expenditure is around 2.3 % of GDP.
- Sub-optimal Public Health System: Due to this, it is challenging to tackle Non-communicable Diseases, which is all about prevention and early detection.
It diminishes preparedness and effective management for new and emerging threats such as pandemic like Covid-19.Here, Private Health Institutions comes in to picture in terms of investment, quality of service, delivering benfits etc.
It doesn’t mean that Private institutions’ don’t have any lacunas:
- In India most of private health institutions have presence only in the metros and other major urban centres.
- Private institutions are expensive which are not affordable to the poor and marginalised sections of the country. e.g. In New Delhi a private hospital denied admission/treatment to the COVID-19 suspect as she was not able to bear the cost of treatment.
- There is general impression prevails that private establishments are often unethical, greedy, treating medical service as a business and hospitalisation as a source of profit.
So, it can be seen that though public health institutions lack in some aspects, private institutions have their own lacunas too.
Vaccine development is a lengthy process which often takes years, with many challenges. 78 of the confirmed active vaccine candidates, 56 (72%) are being developed by private/industry developers, with the remaining 22 (28%) of projects being led by public institutions.
Hence a collaborative approach should be adopted to tackle this crisis.
There are various examples of the public institutions which are also working at a war time speed to tackle this crisis:
- Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII), the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer in terms of dosage, is one of the partner firms for AstraZeneca’s and Oxford’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate. The vaccine has now entered its final phase of human trials.
- Operation Warp Speed (OWS) is a collaboration of several US federal government departments and the private sector to accelerate development of drug and vaccine candidates for COVID-19 (ACTIV).
- Researchers at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies have estimated that, as of the end of April, the G20 countries alone had already committed $6.3 trillion in fiscal spending, or about 9.3% of their combined 2019 GDP, to save lives and assist economies, at levels that exceed their responses to the 2008 global financial crisis.
- The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) is working with global health authorities and vaccine developers to support the development of vaccines against COVID-19.
- The collaborative approach is already followed by National institute of Health (USA), which will collaborate with the private institutions.
As vaccine for the novel corona virus is unlikely to be ready for mass use before 2021,and no sign of medicine to cure is in sight; Instead of looking for the gaps filled by one sector of other we need to adopt a collaborative approach where both sectors will work together, in turn it help human kind to survive on this planet.