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Bigger private sector role in COVID vaccination soon: NITI Aayog member

Details of large-scale participation of the private sector in the COVID-19 vaccination drive will be available in “a matter of few days”, Dr VK Paul, NITI Aayog member who heads the centre’s pandemic response team, has told NDTV.
So far, more than 1.07 crore vaccine doses have been administered to healthcare professionals and frontline medical workers.

“Presently also, the private sector has been prominently involved in vaccinating healthcare and frontline workers. Out of 10,000 vaccination sessions on any given day, 2,000 are being conducted by private sector partners,” Dr Paul said. “And as we move to a much speedier programme, the private sector engagement will become deeper and wider. In a matter of a few days, just wait a little,” he said.

The private sector’s full-scale participation in the COVID-19 inoculation drive will be necessary as more and more sections of the population become eligible for the jabs. For now only healthcare and frontline medical staff are being vaccinated. But even then there are concerns of a number of them skipping vaccination, despite the centre repeatedly telling the vaccines are safe.

The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) recently asked the centre to allow wider private sector participation in the vaccination drive. “Hospitals [should] be allowed to vaccinate critical patients and paying clients, eventually, for ensuring that the vaccine reaches all in the shortest possible time period, while not diverting resources from the government’s strategy of beneficiaries,” CII chief Uday Kotak said in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi last month.

On the Russian-made vaccine Sputnik, Dr Paul said he’s “very happy that Sputnik has applied for emergency use in India.”

The Sputnik vaccine, peer-reviewed by the Lancet Medical Journal, is undergoing trials in India and Dr Reddy’s Laboratories is manufacturing the vaccine. Currently two vaccines – Serum Institute of India’s Covishield and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin – are being administered to healthcare and frontline workers.

“Dr Reddy’s Laboratories has applied for authorisation on behalf of Sputnik. That process will unfold in the coming days… We undertake this process very expeditiously because we want as many vaccine options as possible,” Dr Paul said.

The trial for Sputnik has been conducted on 36,000 people, of whom 33,000 are Russian nationals. Besides, bridging studies are being conducted in India and the UAE. In India, the trials are being conducted on 1,600 people.

COVID-19 cases have been rising in recent days in some states like Maharashtra and Punjab. At least 240 new strains of the coronavirus have surfaced across India, which are behind the fresh surge of infections being seen since last week, Dr Shahshank Joshi, member of Maharashtra’s COVID-19 Task Force, has told NDTV.


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