New Delhi: The A/H1N1 pandemic has been a lesson for governments and businesses on the need for cooperation between the public and private sectors, government officials and health sector experts said on Sunday.
Kiran Walia, minister for health and family welfare in the Delhi government, threw light on how there was resistance from private hospitals for testing H1N1 suspects, even as the government gave fast-track approvals to testing laboratories. The state had to eventually invoke the Epidemic Act, she said at a session on pandemic preparedness at the World Economic Forum’s India Economic Summit in New Delhi.
She gave the example of how the government partnered with outsourcing firm Genpact Ltd, which came forward to set up manned call centres and urged greater collaboration between the government and non-state domains to increase preparedness levels in India.
Ramesh Subrahmanian, president, Asia-Pacific human health, Merck & Co. Inc., agreed with Walia, but said there were risks associated with the development of vaccines because of the speed at which they needed to be made available.
Pfizer India Ltd managing director Kewal Handa said that in some states, there was no preparedness and the governments only woke up once deaths occurred. Health being a state subject, each one was working differently and addressing the pandemic in various ways.
Thomas Schweins, vice-president of strategy and marketing, Qiagen NV, the largest provider of diagnostic kits, said that global society had responded well to the pandemic challenge. However, while the world is now better equipped to tackle outbreaks of disease, there is an urgent need to generate vaccines in a quicker, better fashion, he said.
But giving the example of Germany, where initially hesitant people rushed to get themselves vaccinated against the flu after deaths occurred, he stressed that greater public awareness through responsible reporting by the media is essential.
K. Srinath Reddy, president of the Public Health Foundation of India, pointed out that the country needs to prepare itself for a rapid response to such disease outbreaks.
New pandemics threaten the world every year, with the risk that more diseases may be transmitted from animals to humans.
The private sector is important for drugs, vaccines and diagnosis but it also needs to work in tandem with the government for risk communication and awareness generation since the government and scientists may not always be the most effective communicators.
At the same time, the panel congratulated the government for its response to the outbreak as well as drug and vaccine manufacturers for stepping up their processes.