Centre to give free Covid vaccine doses to all adults from June 21: BMC to double centres
Starting next week, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) will double the number of vaccination centres across the city, anticipating a rise in demand for inoculation. The civic body’s move follows the Centre’s recent decision to provide free vaccination to everyone above 18 years of age from June 21.
Currently, there are a total of 259 vaccination centres, which have a capacity to vaccinate over 31,000 people daily. With plans to expand vaccination centres to more than 500, the inoculation capacity will be pushed to more than 55,000 in Mumbai. Public health officials said increasing centres will also mean a tough competition to private hospitals, which are inoculating more beneficiaries than civic-run centres.
“Since the start of the mass vaccination process in January, we have been continuously working on the logistics. We have the infrastructure to expand the total number of vaccination centres to over 500. We are hopeful that the arrangements will be completed before June 21,” said Suresh Kakani, additional municipal commissioner, BMC.
Currently, BMC has over one lakh vaccine doses. Priority will be given to beneficiaries waiting for their second dose. In fact, healthcare and frontline workers can only come for the second dose.
As of June 12, 3,722,261 people have been vaccinated with Covishield, of which 697,231 have been administered both doses. While a total of 294,777 individuals have been inoculated with Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin, 115,575 have got both the shots.
Last week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared that the Central government would procure and supply Covid-19 jabs to states for free to inoculate all above 18 years of age from June 21. Of the total availability of vaccine, 75% will be procured by the Centre, the remaining 25% will continue to be available for private hospitals.
However, if sources from the public health department are to be believed, officials are still in talks with manufacturers, as a back-up plan in case they fall short of vials, like earlier instances. “Earlier, on several occasions, we had to face mass criticism due to unavailability of vials. We had to stop the vaccination programme at several centres. Even though the Centre has promised to supply the vials, we don’t want to close the door of communication with the manufacturers. We have to keep a backup in case, we don’t get an adequate number of vials,” said an official from the state health department.
There are a total 84 private vaccination centres in the city, which have the capacity to inoculate almost 67,000 people daily. Data shared by BMC shows that private hospitals are vaccinating more beneficiaries than civic and government-run centres. For instance, on June 12, private hospitals inoculated 58,629 people. On the same day, BMC vaccinated only 11,023.
However, doctors said private vaccination may take a backseat due to the Centre’s new rule that private hospitals can’t charge more than ₹150 per dose as service charge, and it will be the responsibility of the state government to monitor its implementation.
Private hospitals said that this would hamper the ongoing inoculation programmes at corporates and societies. “To arrange for vaccination in societies and corporate houses, we need to keep ambulances on stand-by and the arrangements are expensive. These cost more than ₹150 as service charge. Though we completely respect the decisions of the government, holding vaccination camps outside the hospital within the price cap would be problematic,” said Dr Gautam Bhansali, consultant physician, Bombay Hospital.