3rd GAVI Partners' Meeting - Keynote Speech by Dr. Dr. Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India
Following is the text of the Prime Minister’s speech on the occasion:
from the Government of India - see
7 December 2005 - “It has been said many a time
that in increasingly interdependent world that we live in peace and
prosperity are indivisible. But so also is disaster. So also is
disease. Therefore, I stand here to commend all of you for the efforts
that you are making to reduce child, infant and maternal mortality.
Yours is a noble adventure, in quest of promotion of human solidarity.
And I salute all those men and women of courage, of vision, and of
conviction who are contributing to this valiant effort to make this
world safe for our children.
Therefore, it gives me great pleasure to welcome you
all on behalf of the Government and the people of India to this very
important mision. I am happy that our country is a co-host for this
meeting of this Global Alliance for Vaccines & Immunisation – or in
short, GAVI. This is a very important meeting, where you propose to
formulate future strategies and directions for GAVI and the Vaccine
Fund. I share your vision that vaccines are probably the most
cost-effective health interventions available to humanity, particularly
to save our children.
Vaccination is no longer seen as an intervention to
reduce infant and child mortality, but also as a means to tackle
diseases that occur in later life. The more common communicable
diseases like malaria, rota virus etc. take a heavy toll on human
lives. They also pose a serious challenge for developing countries and
they emphasise the need for developing vaccines and for making them
available at affordable prices.
I compliment the UNICEF, the World Health Organisation
and other international agencies, the Gates Foundation, the Government
and people of Norway and of Scandivanian countries for helping
popularise and universalise vaccination. We are also very grateful to
them all for their assistance in launching a programme of universal
immunisation. A significant contribution has also been made in
strengthening the cold chain systems of the countries and developing a
system of vaccine storage in the peripheral parts of various countries.
Our former Prime Minister, the Late Shri Rajiv Gandhi used to take keen
interest in upscaling immunisation programmes and accorded it the
status of a Technology Mission under the direct monitoring of the Prime
The Universal Immunisation Programme in India has had a
major impact on all sections of society. With the introduction of this
programme, the disease burden due to vaccine preventable diseases has
shown marked decline over time. Since 1975, there has been a 72%
decline in the incidence of diphtheria, a 91% decline in the incidence
of whooping cough, and a 61% decline in the incidence of measles. We
are also close to interrupting the transmission of polio virus in the
country. But I would be the last one to argue that we can be satisfied
with the status quo. No we cannot be and we cannot rest on our laurels.
We must do more.
Even as we deal with old problems, new ones emerge.
Japanese Encephalitis is pandemic in India and the South-East Asian
region, with high morbidity and unacceptable mortality. We face the
growing challenge of HIV/AIDS. Here again, we need more investment in
developing an AIDS vaccine. This is an important goal for medical
research internationally, and for us in India as well.
Given the continental dimensions of our country and the
vast climatic and geographical variation, there are several constraints
in the implementation of the Immunisation Programme. A top-down,
over-centralised model does not work. A decentralised model is more
effective. But there is scope for experimentation. And we must learn
from the experience of all those countries where the programmes have
had a greater incidence of success.
I do believe that we need to strengthen our public
health systems, especially at the village level. We need also to place
greater emphasis on preventive rather than curative solutions. Reaching
25 million infants and providing them the required vaccination in time
remains the biggest challenge for our Government.
Our Government has launched very recently, a National
Rural Health Mission, to improve the access of our people, especially
rural people, poor women and children, to assured primary health care
services. This Mission, with its focus on decentralised grassroot
health planning and management will be the primary institutional
mechanism for achieving a quantum leap in public health systems in our
country. I do hope that immunisation and preventive action will form a
core concern of this Health Mission. We need to back this up by
generating low-cost, effective, easy-to-deliver vaccines, which can
reach our vast hinterland. I believe India has the capability to take a
leadership role in this activity, particularly when it comes to
The Immunisation sector in India has been using glass
syringes & needles. To improve the vaccine safety and safe
injection practices in immunisation and to bring about efficiency in
the programme, Auto Disable (AD) Syringes were introduced in 2005 with
the support of GAVI. The government is committed to continue the use of
AD syringes. The immunisation programme was expanded to include
Hepatitis B vaccine in the year 2002, in 33 districts and 15 large
cities with support from GAVI, as a pilot project. In the year 2004, in
the pilot project, 1.2 million children were vaccinated, with three
doses of Hepatitis B. Very soon this will be expanded to 11 States,
covering 11 million new-borns each year. We expect to make it universal
and Hepatitis B vaccine will become integral part of our immunisation
I am happy that GAVI has drawn global attention to the
need for improving immunisation coverage, introducing newer vaccines
and conducting research into communicable and newly emerging diseases.
The philosophy and aims of GAVI have been impressive
and highly beneficial. This has motivated philanthropists like Bill and
Melinda Gates and countries like France, Sweden, Norway and the United
Kingdom to pledge a large amount of funds to support GAVI’s activities.
We heard the Hon’ble Prime Minister of Norway for announcing a further
expansion of Norway’s efforts in this regard and I thank him profoundly
for this gesture. What is more encouraging is that GAVI not only funds
immunisation services in various parts of the world, but also helps
countries in capacity-building and in promoting vaccine research.
I do believe India offers great potential for the
development of vaccines. We have some of the largest vaccine
manufacturers in the world. India supplies more than 60% of world’s
requirement of basic vaccines, as procured by UNICEF. This is made
possible due to our ability to produce quality vaccines at reasonable
prices, affordable by many developing countries. Biotechnology is a
rapidly developing sector in India. Our pharmaceutical companies have
already helped in drastic reduction in prices of anti-retroviral drugs
for the treatment of HIV patients. Production by Indian manufacturers
was the key factor in reduction of price of Hepatitis B vaccine in the
world about eight years back.
This paved the way for rapid introduction of low-cost
vaccines in most countries of the world. This story is being rewritten
with the production of combination vaccines by Indian manufacturers
from this year. India can become the hub of vaccine production for the
developing world. I sincerely hope discussions during your meeting will
accelerate these possibilities. I take this opportunity to give you my
best wishes for the success of the noble task in which you are engaged”.