Explained: Why Covid-19 vaccines in private hospitals are lying unused

Months after the central government decided to reserve 25 per cent of Covid-19 vaccine doses produced in India for the private sector, authorities information reveals that the private sector accounts for less than 7 per cent of vaccinations carried out in India in the previous 2.5 months.

On July 20, in response to a query from Congress Rajya Sabha MP Mallikarjun Kharge, the Union Health Ministry mentioned between May 1 and July 15, round 7 per cent of the entire Covid-19 vaccinations in India have been performed at private centres.

So, are private hospitals no extra in administering Covid-19 vaccines?

Dr Giridhar Gyani, director basic of Association of Healthcare Providers India (AHPI) disagrees. “There is an impression that the private sector is not interested in vaccinations. When we tried to look at the metro and Tier-II towns, we found that people who want to get vaccinated have received it. The private sector has played a big role in vaccinating people,” he mentioned.

FEW TAKERS FOR PRIVATE HOSPITAL VACCINES IN SMALL TOWNS

“After June, the vaccine supply was being aggregated through the government. Our mid-sized hospitals were finding it to be very difficult to get the doses. The requirement to order minimum 3,000 doses in hospitals based in small towns is difficult because they cannot pay an amount to the tune of Rs 18 lakh for such a large procurement,” Dr Gyani mentioned.

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AHPI has carried out a survey of 70 private hospitals to know their vaccination standing. In the survey, 25 hospitals mentioned the federal government has not appointed any nodal officer to handle their considerations. Meanwhile, 39 hospitals mentioned the nodal officers have been appointed, however state governments are not making any effort.

“The government needs to have a provision whereby private hospitals can make small orders. Besides, in smaller towns, people are mostly unwilling to pay as Covid-19 vaccine is being given for free in the government sector,” mentioned Dr Gyani.

In an announcement on July 19, the federal government mentioned greater than 2.6 crore vaccine doses stay unutilised in states, Union Territories and private hospitals in the nation.

Covid-19 VACCINE PRICE CAP LINKED TO UNDERUTILISATION

Underutilisation of Covid-19 vaccines at private hospitals may be attributed to the worth cap on service fees. While authorities centres are administering vaccines freed from price, private hospitals are charging on per dose foundation, with a cap announced by the central government.

Private vaccine centres can cost as much as Rs 780 per dose for Covishield, Rs 1,410 per dose for Covaxin and Rs 1,145 per dose for Sputnik V. The most service cost that they’ll levy is Rs 150. Private hospitals say the issue of price cap on vaccination has not been addressed yet.

ALSO READ | Covishield for 780, Covaxin at 1,410: Centre caps vaccine rates in private hospitals

“Capping the price of vaccines adds to the challenges of private hospitals trying to increase the number of vaccinated people. By virtue of their functioning of having no area restriction (unlike public hospitals), private hospitals are the forerunner in expanding India’s vaccination drive in the most innovative ways, including doorstep and drive-through vaccinations, setting up camps in malls, offices, residential complexes, etc,” mentioned Dr Kousar A Shah, COO, Aakash Healthcare.

He added that whereas the private sector helps and works in direction of equitable vaccine distribution, adopting modern methods for vaccinating individuals incurs a price.

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“When private hospitals are not allowed to charge beyond an amount, those overhead costs remain unaddressed. In turn, such gaps may affect the intent to adopt innovative approaches to reach out to the maximum in the most comforting ways by private players,” Dr Shah mentioned.

Speaking on situation of anonymity, an official from a big private hospital mentioned, “The private sector runs on a high margin model, where volumes are low. After the price cap, the margins and operational costs to conduct vaccinations, especially outside the hospital premises, has itself become a task.”

TIME FOR A CHANGE IN ALLOCATION STRATEGY?

Faced with these challenges and the low utilisation of Covid-19 vaccines in the private sector, well being specialists counsel the federal government ought to revisit its determination of reserving 25 per cent vaccines for the private sector.

“With private vaccination centres unable to optimally utilise vaccine doses allocated to them, we need to rethink our distribution strategy. One option for the government is to leverage private centres to engage satellite vaccination sites in underserved urban and rural areas. Some doses can also be allocated to community clinics and door-to-door vaccination campaigns for the differently abled and immobile individuals,” mentioned creator and inner drugs specialist Dr Swapneil Parikh.

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Dr Parikh added that the necessity of the hour is to take vaccines to the individuals and assume past the mannequin of relying solely on mega vaccination facilities.

“The worst possible thing is if the vaccines sit on shelves. Whatever path we take, we have to ensure vaccines get utilised at the earliest,” Dr Parikh mentioned.

STATES URGE CENTRE TO REVISIT DECISION

Several chief ministers have communicated to the Prime Minister’s Office about the necessity to change the vaccine allocation technique.

On June 28, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin wrote to the Centre urging it to cut back allocation of vaccines for private hospitals from 25 per cent to 10 per cent.

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah on July 19, asking them to cut back the allocation of vaccines to private hospitals from the prevailing 25 per cent to five per cent.

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