India raises WHO Covid excess deaths’ report at Geneva meet
New Delhi: India expressed “dismay and concern” at the 75th session of the World Health Assembly in Geneva on Monday over the recent report by the World Health Organization (WHO) that estimated 4.7 million people in the country died due to the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021.
The 4.7 million excess deaths in India between January 1, 2020, and December 31, 2021, estimated by the multilateral health agency, was almost 10 times higher than the official Covid-19 toll of 481,000 deaths in the corresponding period.
“It is with a sense of dismay and concern that India notes WHO’s recent exercise on all cause excess mortality, where our country specific authentic data published by the statutory authority has not been taken into account,” Union health minister Mansukh Mandaviya said.
India was projected by WHO to have lost the most lives. The second highest projected fatalities was for Russia at 1,072,326, followed by Indonesia at 1,028,565 and the United States at 932,458. After the report was made public, the Indian government objected to WHO’s assessments by saying that the “process, methodology and outcome” were flawed on several counts.
“Consequently, the Central Council of Health and Family Welfare, a representative body of health ministers from all states within India, constituted under Article 263 of Constitution of India, passed a unanimous resolution asking me to convey their collective disappointment and concern with WHO’s approach in this regard,” Mandaviya said on Monday.
India was likely to take issue with WHO’s excess mortality figures for the country that the government said were grossly inflated, HT reported on Monday.
“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 member states,” Mandaviya said on Monday.
Besides equitable access to medical countermeasures including aspects related to intellectual property, need for cost-effective research, technology transfer and regional manufacturing capacities must remain an important focus area, India also said.
There was a need to build a resilient global supply chain to enable equitable access to vaccines and medicines, the health minister said. There was also need for streamlining WHO’s approval process for vaccines and therapeutics, he said.
“As a responsible member of the global community, India is ready to play a key role in these efforts,” he added.