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G20: India pushing for USD 200M corpus for digital health technologies

Focusing on equity in access to diagnostics, drugs, and vaccines in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, India has proposed a medical countermeasure coordination platform to effectively transfer technologies and products to other countries during health emergencies. The government also proposes to develop research and development and manufacturing networks across the world.

As part of its G20 presidency, India is pushing for a $200 million corpus for digital health technologies, providing digital platforms as public goods, and converging international efforts for health emergencies in terms of prevention, preparedness and response.

In a briefing ahead of the third meeting of the G20 health working group to be held in Hyderabad beginning Sunday, Union Health Ministry additional secretary, Lav Agarwal said: “Due to India’s advocacy, there is in-principle agreement for all three priority areas.”

Technical papers on the governance framework of the coordination platform have been circulated among participating countries. Agarwal said there was a need to map and integrate global initiatives for quick decision making and planning in times of crisis. He added that the focus was also on climate change and health to better understand the challenges of zoonotic spillover of diseases transferring from animals to humans

India has spoken out against intellectual property rights obstructing countries from accessing medical countermeasures in times of crisis. During the pandemic, India and South Africa had demanded vaccine manufacturing rights from the World Trade Organisation (WTO). India is part of the G20 troika along with Indonesia and Brazil. All three countries are developing and emerging economies of the Global South.

Dr Lakshmi Narasimhan Balaji, senior health adviser with UNICEF said: “It took around 1.5 years during the current pandemic to get issues of equity on the table. This troika will help put in place the nuts and bolts of getting future manufacturing capacity and allocation of resources, whether intellectual property or monetary, to the Global South. The medical countermeasure priority paper talks about a platform with a regulatory mechanism and rules of engagement among countries.”

Balaji added that better primary health systems and a responsive surveillance system were needed to ensure that outbreaks do not become epidemics, and epidemics do not become pandemics.

India is also focusing on creating a platform for converging all existing digital health initiatives so that resources are not repeatedly spent to develop similar products. India will make available for free its own platforms like the vaccine management system for Covid-19. The Indian Express

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