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Private hospitals under scanner for slow pace of COVID-19 vaccination, procurement

A Kolkata-based private hospital has ordered hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 vaccine doses, paying multiple crores of rupees towards May-June end. It is yet to clear the inventory.

“The initial rush to get COVID-19 vaccines isn’t there. Now most people are preferring to wait and get a free jab at government vaccination centres,” said an executive of the hospital who didn’t want to be named.

“Only the ones who need to get vaccinated urgently or those who don’t mind paying are coming to our centre,” the executive added.

According to the new vaccination policy that became effective from June 21, the Centre will directly procure 75 per cent of doses from vaccine companies and distribute them among states to be administered free.

Private hospitals will have exclusive access to the remaining 25 percent, but they have to place orders for vaccines through state governments. COVID vaccines are priced at Rs 600 for Covishield and Rs 1,200 for Covaxin, excluding the Rs 150 charged as administration fee, by private hospitals.

The central government allowed private hospitals to participate in the COVID-19 vaccination drive with an intention to scale up vaccination. But that isn’t going according to plan.

India has so far administered 39.1 crore doses, as on July 14. India has fully vaccinated 5.5 percent people and 22.2 percent got at least one dose, as of July 10.

Experts say the current vaccination speed of 3-4 million isn’t enough for a full economic recovery. “India’s current vaccination rate of 3-4 million per day is simply not good enough. We need to up our game to achieve a daily rate of at least 5-6 million jabs. It is not clear whether the cause is hesitation or insufficient production,” Arvind Panagariya, former Niti Aayog Vice-Chairman, tweeted earlier this week.

Private vaccination worries
Private COVID-19 vaccination centres have come under scanner for the slow pace of procurement and administration of COVID-19 vaccines in some states.

Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan, who chaired a high-level meeting on Thursday with health secretaries and senior immunisation officials of 15 states and UTs, along with executives of the Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech, described the situation as a ‘serious worry’.

The government has found that, in some states, private vaccination centres took stock, but the actual administration of vaccines is seen to be less than the quantity lifted. Also, many private vaccination centres have not placed orders for the earmarked quantum of COVID vaccines.

Even if they have placed any order with the state government, payment has not been made for the entire amount of indented vaccines. In some states, the quantity of vaccines paid for has not been physically lifted.

Now, the Centre has asked the states and private centres to ensure that the remaining unutilised vaccine doses are quickly administered.

“States were advised to review the status on a daily basis and ensure that indents for the earmarked quantum are quickly placed with private vaccine manufacturers,” the government said.

Blame game
“Blaming private hospitals is just an excuse,” said Dr Girdhar Gyani, Director General – Association of Healthcare Provider (AHPI), which represents smaller hospitals, nursing homes and clinics.

“State governments are not coordinating properly, they have not appointed people and supplies are also coming very late,” Gyani said.

Gyani added that 10 large hospitals that are confined to big metro cities have cornered much of the vaccine supplies meant for private use, and vaccine manufacturers, especially the Serum Institute of India, preferred them, as they bought in bulk quantities.

“The large hospitals are sitting comfortably on vaccine stocks,” Gyani said.

“The government realised this anomaly and tried to correct it in its new policy, but still most of the unvaccinated people are in Tier-3 towns and rural areas. There is also vaccine hesitancy,” Gyani added.

Health minister Mansukh Mandaviya said the central government has indicated in advance to the states the quantum of stocks to be available to them.

“To enable vaccination through government and private hospitals, 11.46 crore vaccine doses were made available to state governments and Union Territories in June, and this has been increased to 13.5 crore in July,” Mandaviya said in a tweet on July 14.

“The central government had informed states on June 19, 2021, about how many doses would be made available in July. After this, on June 27 and July 13, states will be informed about the availability every day for the first and second fortnight of July,” he had added. Moneycontrol

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