The Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM), the economic arm of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), is all set to amplify its opposition to the Centre’s engagement with foreign establishments such as the Bill and Melinda Gates (BMG) Foundation in public health.
The ministry of health and family welfare’s assertion that it will “continue” to collaborate with BMG Foundation, despite concerns raised by SJM and several non government organisations about their links to pharma majors , has set the stage for confrontation between the Sangh affiliate and the government.
Earlier this week, the ministry denied media reports that there was a rethink on allowing the BMG Foundation to support the Universal Immunisation Programme beyond February 28.
The SJM has been pushing the Centre to come up with a public health policy that is tailor-made for India and free from “foreign influence”.
It will soon release a white paper on the BMG Foundation’s activities and links to vaccine manufacturers, which it says is a conflict of interest.
“The Gates Foundation and big pharmaceutical companies dominate immunisation policy and programmes. Even so-called scientific studies on which immunisation policy-making depends are being conducted and funded by pharmaceutical companies. Our vaccination programmes should not be guided by pharmaceutical companies, but by specific requirements of the country,” Ashwani Mahajan, national co-convener of the SJM, said.
SJM functionaries have raised the issue of vaccination programmes run in collaboration with or support from Global Alliance for Vaccination (GAVI), a Switzerland-based organisation.
“From the related material available on the website, it can be observed that GAVI not only convinced the ministry to introduce pentavalent vaccine on all India basis,but has structured the grant where the entire quantity during funding period would be procured by GAVI through UNICEF and Government of India would procure through self-funding pentavalent vaccine beyond GAVI funding period. It is on record that due to introduction of pentavalent vaccination per child cost has increased to ?525 as against ?15 for DPT and HepB vaccines earlier,” Mahajan said.
Even as the health ministry has signed an MoU with the BMG Foundation to augment efforts to achieve universal immunisation, SJM and several other NGOs have redflagged the introduction of Rotavirus vaccine in the universal immunisation programme in 2016, allegedly at the behest of GAVI.
“There were controversial results of clinical trials of the Rotavirus vaccine carried out at Delhi, Pune and Vellore, conducted at the recommendations of the World Health Organisation with support from Program for Appropriate Technology in Health, a non-profit organisation based in Seattle, Washington,” Mahajan said.