New Delhi, Dec 31 (Representative) After two years of the worst phase of Covid pandemic, 2022 saw a new wave of infections driven by the Omicron variant of coronavirus which ultimately subsided, putting India along with the world on the route to normalcy before fresh concerns arose amid rise in cases globally at the fag end of the year. The health ministry, which was kept on its toes by coronavirus, had to briefly deal with the challenge of monkeypox which had sparked a major scare in the months of June, July and August and also the issue of deaths of children in Gambia and Uzbekistan allegedly linked to cough syrups manufactured in India. The Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation began a probe in connection with the death of 18 children in Uzbekistan allegedly linked to the cough syrup Dok-1 Max manufactured by Marion Biotech of Noida. The Uzbekistan health ministry has alleged that the children died after consuming Dok-1 Max. Before Uzbekistan’s claims, there were reports linking the deaths of 70 children in Gambia to cough syrups manufactured by Haryana-based Maiden Pharmaceuticals earlier this year. The Drugs Controller General of India, however, claimed the WHO drew a premature link. With Covid cases remaining comparatively low, the ministry could turn its attention to other important projects and commitments this year. However, it had to bring back its focus on Covid by the year end, stepping up surveillance and revising its international guidelines as spurt in cases were reported from Japan, the US, South Korea, Brazil, France and China. A major achievement of the ministry in 2022 was the administration of 220 crore doses of Covid vaccine which has resulted in 97 per cent of the eligible adult population having received the first dose and 90 per cent fully vaccinated.
Expanding the scope of its Covid vaccination drive, India began inoculating adolescents in the age group of 15-18 years from January 3 and administering precaution doses to healthcare and frontline workers and those aged 60 and above with comorbidities from January 10. The country began inoculating children aged 12-14 from March 16 and also removed the comorbidity clause making all people aged above 60 eligible for the precaution dose of Covid vaccine. On April 10, the government began administering precaution doses of COVID-19 vaccines to all aged above 18 years.However, low uptake of precaution dose with just 27 per cent of the eligible population opting for it so far has been one of points of concern for the health ministry especially in face of the possibility of Covid cases rising again. Taking note of the evolving COVID-19 situation globally and emergence of mutant variants of SARS-CoV-2 virus, the guidelines for international arrivals were reviewed from time to time throughout the year.In the Covid vaccine scenario, Bharat Biotech’s intranasal vaccine being approved by the Union Health Ministry as a booster dose for those aged 18 years and above is noteworthy. Another major highlight of the year was the launch of Pradhan Mantri TB Mukt Bharat Abhiyan in September aimed at eliminating the disease five years ahead of the SDG (Sustainable Development Goal) target of 2030. The program provides a community support program under which tuberculosis patients can be adopted and cared for by an individual, elected representatives or institutions. The health ministry also organised a mega ‘Raktdaan Amrit Mahotsav’ as a part of which over 2.5 lakh people voluntarily donated blood.
As part of efforts towards providing affordable medicines, the ministry revised the National List of Essential Medicine (NLEM) taking the total drugs under it to 384 with 34 new additions to the tally which included several anti-cancer drugs, antibiotics and vaccines.The government’s flagship insurance scheme Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojna continued to provide healthcare cover to the poor and vulnerable with around 4 crore people availing free treatment worth more than 47,000 crore under the scheme till November 25 since it was launched in September 2018. Over 20 crore Ayushman cards have been issued so far.In another major development, transgender people were included in the Ayushman Bharat insurance scheme which besides offering composite healthcare services, will now support sex-change operations. The ministry on December 29 said it has achieved the target of operationalising 1,50,000 Ayushman Bharat Health and Wellness Centres by upgrading the sub-health centres and rural and urban primary health centres, in both urban and rural areas aimed at bringing health care closer to the community. The e-health initiative of the ministry eSanjeevani, a free telemedicine service, clocked over 8 crore teleconsultations till December. Augmenting its footprint in the digital landscape remained one of the top priorities of the health ministry. Over 30 crore Ayushman Bharat Health Account (ABHA) IDs were created.