Budget 2021 highlights for healthcare sector: Funds for COVID-19 vaccines, new health intiatives

Rs 64,180 crore will be allocated for the Atmanirbhar Swasth Bharat Yojana over the next six years, to advance primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare.

tech2 News Staff February 01, 2021 17:39:25 IST
Budget 2021 highlights for healthcare sector: Funds for COVID-19 vaccines, new health intiatives

Indian Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, center, shows annual federal budget for the year 2021-22, with her team before leaving finance ministry for the parliament house to present it, in New Delhi, India, Monday, Feb. 1, 2021. Image credit: AP Photo/Manish Swarup

The Budget proposals for the financial year (FY) 2021-12 rests on six pillars — health and well-being, physical and financial capital and infrastructure, inclusive development for aspirational India, reinvigorating human capital, innovation and R&D, Minimum Govt and Maximum Governance. Like last year, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman ditched the colonial legacy of a Budget Briefcase and opted for the traditional Bahi-Khata – red, handmade ledger – to carry Union Budget Papers. Today was Day 2 of the Budget session and this session will conclude on 8 April with a recess in between from 13 February to 8 March.

In her speech, Sitharaman said the coronavirus pandemic "is the dawn of a new era, one in which India is poised to be a land of new hope".

“The preparation of this Budget was undertaken in circumstances like never before, in view of calamities that have affected a country or a region within a country. But what we have endured with COVID-19 to 2020 is [unique],” she added.

Sitharaman said that Rs 64,180 crore will be allocated for the new national health programme, Atmanirbhar Swasth Bharat Yojana – over the next six years. The program funds will be dedicated to developing primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare in the country. This will be in addition to the National Health Mission and help support both urban and rural health centres. It is also looking at establishing of 12 central institutions while strengthening the National Center for Disease Control, expansion of the health information portal to all states and UTs to connect all health labs, reported Business Insider. She also said that the GOI will be merging the supplementary nutrition programme and Poshan Abhiyan to launch Mission Poshan 2.0 which aims to strengthen the nutritional content,  delivery and outreach.

The National Health Mission is a program that strives to provide accessible, affordable and quality universal healthcare to those in need of it. In the current FY budget, a National Commission for Allied Healthcare Professionals Bill has been introduced to ensure transparent and efficient regulation of 56 allied healthcare professions.

COVID-19 vaccine

Sitharaman announced Rs 2,83,846 lakh crores for the health and wellness sector which will also include Rs 35,000 crores for COVID-19 vaccines and also said that she is committed to spending more if needed. This money will be used for the development and distribution of the vaccines. She said this amounts to a 137 percent increase in the health allocations from the previous FY.

The Finance Minister said that two new COVID-19 vaccines will soon be announced without making any mention of which ones. Currently, India has given restricted emergency use approvals to two vaccines - the indigenously made Covaxin made by Bharat Biotech and Oxford's Covishield manufactured by the Serum Institute of India.

She said that the central government is committed to the eradication of the coronavirus pandemic and India currently also has one of the lowest death rates and active cases in the world due to, what Prime Minister Narendra Modi calls, the 'world's largest inoculation programme' with more than 37.5 lakh healthcare workers being vaccinated.

Science and Health budget Highlights

  • Integrated public health labs to be set up in each district; 3,382 block public health units in 11 states
  • Government to spend Rs 1.41 lakh crore for Urban Clean India Mission
  • The Urban Swachh Bharat 2.0 Mission to be launched at an outlay of Rs 1.41 lakh crore over five years and will focus on complete faecal sludge management, wastewater treatment, source segregation, management of waste from urban construction, bioremediation of legacy dump sites
  • Jal Jeevan Mission Urban to have an outlay of Rs 2.87 lakh crore, with 2.86 crore households to get tap connections in 500 Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) cities, over five years.
  • New health infrastructure scheme with a higher outlay of Rs 61,000 crore
  • Government to set up 17,000 rural and 11,000 urban health and wellness centres
  • Integrated public health labs will be set up in each district
  • New portal to collect data on gig workers, migrant labourers, and construction workers which will be used to provide health and insurance facilities.
  •  42 urban centres with a population of million people and more will be allocated 2,217 crores to deal with air pollution.
  • The GOI will also set up a regional World Health Organisation office, nine bio-safety level 3 laboratories and four regional National Institutes of Virology
  • Deep Ocean Mission with outlay of more than Rs 4,000 crore over five years, to be launched, for deep-ocean exploration and ocean biodiversity conversation
  • Survey of Villages Abadi and Mapping with Improvised Technology in Village Areas scheme (SVAMITVA) to be extended during 2021-22 to cover all states and union territories
  • An infusion of Rs 1,000 crore will be injected into the Solar Energy Corporation of India and Rs 1,500 crore to Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency Limited to boost the green energy sector.
  • A pneumococcal vaccine which is limited to just five States will be rolled out across the country, preventing more than 50,000 child deaths annually

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