New Delhi: While finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s Budget speech Tuesday focussed on digital and mental health, the Budget documents show that a major reduction has been affected in the allocations for medical and public health.
This does not, however, include the allocation for the health sector in the budget, which stands at Rs 86,200 crore for the 2022-23 financial year.
The Expenditure Profile document in the chapter titled Statement of Major Variations of Expenditure Between BE 2021-22 and 2022-23 states that the allocation for medical and public health has gone down from Rs 74,820 crore in the 2021-22 financial year, to Rs 41,011 crore for the 2022-23 fiscal, a reduction of Rs 33,089 crore. The reason for the reduction, the document explains, is “lower requirement for vaccination” for Covid.
Till Tuesday morning, India had administered 166.68 crore (1,66,68,48,204) doses of Covid vaccines, with 75 per cent of the eligible adult population having been fully vaccinated in the country (with two vaccine doses). The total adult population that needs to be fully vaccinated stands at 94 crore.
In addition, precaution doses have to be administered to healthcare, frontline workers and vulnerable senior citizens under the present vaccination guidelines. According to government estimates, in the coming days, 1.05 crore healthcare workers, 1.9 crore frontline workers and 2.75 crore comorbid people will need to be given a third vaccine dose.
Of the eligible minor population of those aged between 15-18 years, about 46 per cent have received the first dose. India is yet to roll out any programme for vaccination of children younger than 15 years old.
Rs 35k crore had been allocated for vaccines last year
In the budget for the 2021-22 financial year, touted as a health budget, Sitharaman had set aside Rs 35,000 crore for Covid vaccinations. According to a government reply to a query under the Right to Information Act, in 2021 the government had spent about Rs 20,000 crore on procurement of Covid vaccines. Some internal government estimates had earlier last year pegged the total expenditure on Covid vaccines at Rs 50,000 crore.
Commenting on the reduced spending, a senior health ministry official said: “There will be no financial constraints in completion of the Covid vaccination programme.”