India expressed “dismay and concern” over the World Health Organisation not using statutory data from the country for its report on excess mortality during the two pandemic years at the ongoing World Health Assembly.
Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said: “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.”
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He said: “The Central Council of Health and Family Welfare, a constitutional body having representatives of the health ministers from all states, passed a resolution asking me to convey their collective disappointment and concern in this regard.”
The WHO report, which was released earlier this month, said 47.4 lakh people in India died in 2020 and 2021 either directly due to the infection or through its indirect impacts. This is nearly ten times the official Covid-19 toll of 4.81 lakh at the end of 2021. India’s annual data from the civil registration system (CRS) for the year 2020 showed that there had been 4.75 lakh more deaths than in the previous year.
To compare, the number of registered deaths increased by 6.9 lakh between 2018 and 2019 and by 4.86 lakh between 2017 and 2018. The CRS data alone, in the absence of the Sample Registration System data that estimates the total deaths in a year based off a survey, cannot estimate excess deaths.
However, NITI Aayog member Dr VK Paul at the time told The Indian Express that any estimate of excess mortality would have to be within the envelope of these 4.75 lakh additional deaths registered and not in some “exorbitant multiples”.
Mandaviya also called for a global resilient supply chain and equitable access to medicines and vaccines. With most Covid-19 vaccine doses going to the global north at the height of the pandemic, India sought waiver of intellectual property rights at the World Trade Organisation.
“India would like to highlight that 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,” Mandaviya said.
He added: “PM Narendra Modi has highlighted the need for building a resilient global supply chain to enable equitable access to vaccines and medicines.”