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COVID-19 could give momentum to Indian healthcare industry: HUL CMD Sanjiv Mehta

Making a case for restarting manufacturing of APIs Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients), Mehta said this would not only help India become the “affordable healthcare capital of the world” but would also be a massive growth engine for the country.

February 20, 2021 / 03:28 PM IST
 
 
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The COVID-19 pandemic could provide India an opportunity to scale up the healthcare industry and be a major supplier of pharmaceutical products to the world, Hindustan Unilever Chairman & Managing Director Sanjiv Mehta said on Saturday.

Making a case for restarting manufacturing of APIs Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients), Mehta said this would not only help India become the “affordable healthcare capital of the world” but would also be a massive growth engine for the country.

"I believe that just like Y2K crisis gave a stimulus to the IT industry in the country, the current pandemic could give momentum to the healthcare industry,” said Mehta in his virtual keynote address at All Indian Management Association (AIMA) Foundation Day.

The healthcare industry needs focus not only for the welfare of the country's population but also for improving on the value chain and become a major supplier of pharmaceutical products to the world, he said.

Terming local manufacturing of API “critical", Mehta said there is a need to restart it. According to him, by giving up local manufacturing of API, we had done a “big disservice” to the nation.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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“I believe India can really become the Affordable Healthcare capital of the world. This will not only be good for the citizens of the country, but will also be a massive growth engine for the country,” he said.

Mehta also lauded the strict lockdown imposed by the Indian government during the peak of the pandemic and said at that stage while everyone was cribbing about it, they must realise that the healthcare system in the country was very fragile at that time.

Besides, Mehta, who was also awarded JRD Tata Corporate Leadership Award by AIMA on Saturday, highlighted concerns over the environment and said there should be no procrastination on this.

“For pandemic, we will get a vaccine but for climate, there would not be a vaccine and I think that we have to stop procrastinating... If we are not able to control the global warming then large swathe of land, many parts of our own country will submerge in water," he said.

He also lauded the decision of the US Administration under new President Joe Biden to return to the Paris Agreement on climate change.

“I am so happy that the US administration under President Joe Biden has again come back to the Paris accord. It was a completely absolutely wrong step by the previous administration. This is a crisis which is staring at us,” he said while referring to the recent glacier burst in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand, which killed over 62 people.

“This is just a small impact of the climate crisis, which is facing us. My urge would be that for the world, we would have to stop procrastinating the concrete steps and in business, we have to adopt sustainability as a business core,” he added.

According to Mehta, climate crisis and healthcare are the two big lessons that the world and businesses must focus on.

“If I have to pick up the lessons that the world should not forget—one is to accelerate on climate change and the other is healthcare,” Mehta said.

In 2019, Unilever Plc had announced investment of one billion euros in a fund to invest in climate change projects and reduce to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions from all its products by 2039.
PTI
first published: Feb 20, 2021 03:27 pm

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