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Govt move to sell vaccine at a premium to private hospitals raises eyebrows

Punjab government’s move to sell Covaxin procured under the state quota to private hospitals has raised eyebrows as it makes a profit of ₹660 per dose in the name of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Further, the private hospital profits ₹500 per shot as the customer pays ₹1,560 for each jab.

Interestingly, Corporate Social Responsibility by definition has philanthropy at its core, which in this case, is nowhere visible.

Of the one-lakh vials it procured recently, the state government sold at least 20,000 to private hospitals across the state at a rate of ₹1,060 per dose that had cost it ₹400.

Reports gathered from the field suggest that the private hospitals are charging at least ₹1,560 per shot from the people.

Officials involved in the drive claim the government has created a different bank account in the name of Vaccination CSR Fund and private hospitals deposit the money in this account only. State authorities involved in the procurement of vaccine maintained that the additional money collected from the private hospitals will be used to purchase vaccine.

“We have purchased it at a rate of ₹400 and are giving to the private hospitals at a rate which they would have paid had they bought it from the directly from the manufacturer. Private hospitals are depositing the money in the CSR Fund account created only to purchase vaccine,” said state’s nodal officer for vaccine and senior IAS officer, Vikas Garg. In their communication, private hospitals were told by the vaccine manufacturers that they can’t supply them vaccine at least before six months.

The vaccine was purchased by the state government for 18-45 years category and private hospitals are now administering it to anybody above 18 who has booked a slot. The move is seen as an attempt of the state government to make profits when people are striving hard to get jabbed amid shortage of vaccine at the government-run centres.

Public and the health experts have criticised this move, questioning how can the government collect money in the name of CSR Fund.

“How can state make money out of this? It’s shameful that when the state-run free vaccination centres had to be closed due to shortage of vaccine, govts are making profits. The justification that the fund will be used for procuring the vaccine is like using money collected by loot for the welfare of people,” said Dr Balbir Singh, an eye surgeon and health activist from Patiala. He was also former state convener of the AAP.

A 32-year-old lecturer in a private college in Jalandhar said she had no option but to pay ₹1,560 for the jab at a private hospital as government centres have run out of the vaccine. “I was surprised to know that the state has sold these doses to private hospitals. If it was the state quota, why common people should pay for it,” she said. Hindustan Times