Health minister raises dismay and concern about WHO’s “excess death count” anomaly at world body’s 75th session


India’s Union Health Minister on Monday raised “dismay and concern” over WHO’s recent exercise on the excess mortality, where country-specific “authentic data “, published by India’s statutory authority, was disregarded.

Speaking at the 75th session of World Health Assembly at WHO’s HQ in Geneva, Mandaviya said, India’s Central Council of Health and Family Welfare – a representative body of Health Ministers from all States and constituted under Article 263 of Constitution of India – has passed a unanimous resolution asking him to convey “their collective disappointment and concern” with WHO’s approach.

The Indian government, it may be recalled, has previously expressed disappointment and countered the estimates of the World Health Organisation (WHO) about how many Indians died because of the pandemic. India’s official Covid-19 death count in 2020 and 2021 is 4,81,000. The WHO puts India’s death toll at 4.7 million till the end of 2021—almost 10 times the official count.

“It is with a sense of dismay and concern that India notes WHO’s recent exercise on all-cause excess mortality where our country’s specific authentic data published by the statutory authority has not been taken into account,” he said.

The Union Government’s rebuttal of the “excess death count” hinges on the fact that WHO used mathematical modelling based on data from some States to estimate India’s death data. It said, the organisation should instead have relied on official count as captured by the country’s Civil Registration System (CRS) data. Given the vast geography, and the fact that different States had different mortality rates, the WHO methodology ”was bound to be incorrect”.

WHO, on its part said, the Indian government did not have updated data when they asked for it and CRS 2020 was released only after the world body had finished its exercise.

Mandaviya, during his speech at Geneva, said there was a need to build a resilient global supply chain “to enable equitable access to vaccines and medicines”, streamline WHO’s approval process for vaccines and therapeutics and strengthen the world body to build a more resilient global health security architecture.

“There is a need to ensure centrality of WHO in global architecture and increase assessed contribution to WHO in a phased manner, but that should be linked to an accountability framework, value for money approach and genuine engagement with (its) member states,” he said.

According to Mandaviya, there was a need for equitable access to medical countermeasures including aspects related to intellectual property, need for cost-effective research, and focus on technology transfer and regional manufacturing capacities.

“As a responsible member of the global community, India is ready to play a key role in these efforts,” he added.

Published on

May 23, 2022

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