The Union Health Ministry on Wednesday said that the reports of India delinking its vaccine programme advisory body from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) are misleading as the philanthropy outfit continues to collaborate and support the ministry.
"Some media reports have suggested that all health related collaborations with the Gates Foundation on National Health Mission (NHM) have been terminated. This is inaccurate and misleading. The BMGF continues to collaborate and support the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare," said a statement from the ministry.
National dailies on Wednesday reported that all financial ties of the country's apex immunisation advisory body, the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI), with the Gates Foundation were snapped over possible conflict of interest issues arising from the foundation's "ties" with pharmaceutical companies.
It was also reported that the NTAGI Secretariat will be now be fully funded by the central government.
According to the published reports, the NTAGI Secretariat was so far being serviced through the Gates Foundation-funded Immunisation Technical Support Unit (ITSU) at the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI).
Now the NTAGI is being shifted to the National Institute of Health and Family Welfare (NIHFW).
The ministry said that there is no financial link of the NTAGI with the BMGF or any other organisation as the body consists of independent experts.
"The ITSU was established to support the ministry for evidence based planning, programme operations, monitoring and evaluation, strategic communication, cold chain and vaccine logistics management and support for Adverse Event Following Immunisation," the ministry said.
"One of the functions of ITSU was to host the NTAGI Secretariat to facilitate the secretarial work of NTAGI which includes coordination of its regular meetings," it added.
As per the ministry, in the last few years, many steps have been taken to strengthen the NTAGI by providing a secretariat, establishing a code of practice and now institutionalising it at the NIHFW.
"The transitioning of the NTAGI Secretariat from ITSU to NIHFW was a planned activity and is part of the health system strengthening efforts by the government. This will have no adverse impact on its functioning," the ministry clarified.
The ministry also stated that as far as technical support by ITSU is concerned, it is functioning till February 28, 2017, and the project will continue to support the immunisation programme in techno-managerial capacity beyond this date.
"The contours of this support are being finalised with Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) and BMGF," said the ministry.