It was reported that Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is no longer funding the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (NTAGI). The Indian government decided to cut off all financial ties with the Foundation.
The Gates Foundation-funded Immunization Technical Support Unit (ITSU) had so far served as the secretariat of NTAGI, which is the country’s apex immunisation advisory body and decides on vaccines that should become part of the government’s immunisation programme. However, according to the financial daily’s report, the advisory body’s secretariat will now be fully funded by the government.
The reason behind this shut out? The report cited possible conflict of interest arising from the foundation’s tied to pharmaceutical companies. Further, the report cited sources, saying that objections raised by outfits like the Swadeshi Jagran Manch also factored into the government’s decision.
Conflict of interest
In March last year, allegations of possible conflict of interest were raised by member of the steering group of National Health Mission against the Gates Foundation. The objections centred around the foundation paying for NTAGI’s secretariat.
According to an Indian Express report, the members of the steering group had communicated to the government their reservations and said that it was important to assess what affect would the fact that the secretariat staff was not paid for by the government have on the country’s vaccination policy.
A steering group member, according to the report, said, “The NTAGI secretariat has been moved out of the ministry to the office of Public Health Foundation of India and the 32 staff members in that secretariat draw their salaries from the BMGF (Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation).
There is a clear conflict of interest — on one hand, the BMGF funds the secretariat that is the highest decision making body in vaccines and, on the other, it partners the pharma industry in GAVI (Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization). This is unacceptable.”