File photo: A resident gets the Covid-19 vaccine shot. (Ravi Kumar/ Hindustan Times)
File photo: A resident gets the Covid-19 vaccine shot. (Ravi Kumar/ Hindustan Times)

Govt seeks equitable allocation of vaccine doses at pvt centres

As per the CoWIN dashboard, of the total 36,116 sites conducting Covid vaccination, 1,587 are in the private sector.
By Rhythma Kaul, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JUN 12, 2021 11:32 PM IST

States should collate the demand for coronavirus vaccine doses in private vaccination centres in their region and either coordinate the procurement of doses themselves or let the Centre do it, the Union health ministry has suggested -- a move aimed at ensuring that the administration of doses by private hospitals and centres is equitable across the country.

Currently it is skewed in favour of the large cities, especially metros, with most of the allotment being monopolised by large hospital chains.

Officials admitted that doses through this channel have not been allocated equitably since big private hospital chains are seen to have been able to corner the bulk of the quota under this mechanism, and states such as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal, and Assam have lost out since they have fewer private hospitals than others.

Now, the Union ministry wants the states to get a sense of the demand and come up with an allotment mechanism – or let the Centre do it.

“There are two options available with the states and Union territories: the first one is to aggregate the demand and facilitate procurement from companies; the second is to aggregate the demand and let the government of India facilitate procurement,” said an official aware of the matter on condition of anonymity.

Last week, the Union government changed its vaccine policy and said it would once again be in charge of sourcing vaccines and allocating them to the states (the policy before May 1, when it allowed states to procure directly from suppliers). Of the total vaccines available, 75% are to be reserved for this, with the remaining 25% available to te private sector (the 25% for the private sector was also a change introduced starting May 1). The new policy is to start from June 21, until which, the current policy (50% sourced and allocated by the Centre, for 45+ age group; 25% sourced by states, for 18-44 age group; 25% sourced by private hospitals) will continue.

As per the Co-WIN dashboard, of the 36,116 sites conducting Covid vaccination, 1,587, or 4% , are in the private sector.

The new mechanism does not mean there will be a change in the purchase mechanism – private hospitals will still need to strike direct deals with the vaccine makers.

A report in the Times of India on Saturday said the distribution and allocation of Covid vaccines for private hospitals will be divided among states in proportion to their populations.

A second official, who asked not to be named, said the communication to this effect sent out by the Union health ministry was in the nature of a recommendation and the final decision rests with the state governments.

“The advice is based on the disparity that was seen between bigger cities and private hospitals and tier-2/3 cities and rural areas, and smaller hospitals. Many of the smaller private hospitals that were earlier running vaccination centres stopped conducting the vaccination drive because of a lack of an adequate number of doses. This way states can ensure smaller hospitals also get the required share,” this person added.

According to a June 4 Union health ministry statement, in the month of May, a total of 74 million (7.4 crore) doses were available for vaccination. “Out of these, about 18.5 million (1.85 crore) doses were earmarked for procurement by the private hospitals. The private hospitals have been able to procure 12.9 million (1.29 crore) doses in the month , out of which they administered 2.2 million (22 lakh) doses.”

On June 10, Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan chaired a meeting with the states and Union territories. The progress of vaccination was reviewed at the meeting in light of the revised guidelines for implementation of the national Covid-19 vaccination programme and recent advisories. Less than adequate private sector participation in the Covid-19 vaccination drive was highlighted at the meeting.

The limited presence of the private sector and its unequal spread was particularly stark in states such as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal, and Assam.

As of Saturday, around 259 million Covid-19 vaccine doses have been distributed among states. About 11 million doses are still left with the states and Union territories to be administered in the coming days.

According to the Co-WIN dashboard, as of Saturday evening, close to 249 million doses have been administered across the country.

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