Jab purchase by private hospitals well below quota; cost factor acts as deterrent

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CHANDIGARH/KOLKATA/MUMBAI/DEHRADUN: Private hospitals in at least four states are buying well below their quota of Covid-19 vaccines. Information gathered by this newspaper reveals the stock is going unused in some places. Private Covid Vaccination Centres (PCVC) in Punjab had a quota of 5.5 lakh doses in June, but they bought only 50,000.

In West Bengal, these entities were entitled to nearly 20 lakh, but they procured around 2.5 lakh. In Maharashtra, of the 58 lakh procured by them this month, around 34.2 lakh were used. Uttarakhand had a quota of 2.5 lakh for private hospitals, of which 65,000 were purchased. 

Under the current vaccination policy, 75% of shots produced and available in the country Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin, Covishield by Serum Institute of India and the Russian vaccine Sputnik V is bought by the Centre and distributed to the states. The states administer these free of cost. The remaining 25% is for the PCVCs to buy at `650 per dose. They can charge `150 per shot from the beneficiaries.

In several states, only a handful of private hospitals are taking part in the vaccination drive. In Bengal, 176 of the 2,013 establishments are part of the process. Of 800 registered private hospitals in Madhya Pradesh, vaccination is going on in around 20. 

In Jammu and Kashmir, only three PCVCs are administering vaccines. Of around 200 in the Bihar capital of Patna, a mere 10 have placed orders. Citing low procurement by PCVCs, a few states suggested the distribution formula be reworked.

Tamil Nadu CM MK Stalin said this should be 90:10 instead of 75:25, Jharkhand suggested 95:5. Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik said only 4% of vaccinations in the state are happening at PCVCs. Andhra Pradesh CM YS Jagan Mohan Reddy raised the same point. But the Centre has ruled this out and said the 75:25 formula has come into effect recently and it is early to judge.

While free vaccination in places run by state governments is one reason of poor response at PCVCs, costing is another. After paying Rs 650 per dose, these entities are finding it difficult to cover other expenses for an additional Rs 150. “Private hospitals get Rs 150 per patient. For this, a hospital has to deploy four persons computer operator to enter the details, nurse to inject the vaccine, a person for pre and post check-up and another person.

The hospital spends around Rs 4,500 per day on salary of four employees, sanitizers, gloves etc. It earns around the same, since on an average around 30 people come to a private facility for vaccination,” said Indian Medical Association (Punjab) vice-president Dr Navjot Dahiya. Sources said when there was no capping, PCVCs were charging Rs 300-700 per dose. Around 30,000 got inoculated in private centres in Punjab in the last week of June. In free facilities, this was above 5 lakh.

Sumana Ganguly, a doctor in Kolkata, said lack of infrastructure is forcing private hospitals to go slow. “Adequate space and considerable strength of manpower is required to participate in the vaccination programme, which is not available. That’s because, the space provided for vaccination was curved out of the existing set-up which was fully operational,’’ she said.

Reported by Harpreet Bajwa, Sudhir Suryawanshi, Pranab Mondal and Vineet Upadhyay 

Inputs from Fayaz Wani (Srinagar), Rajesh Kumar Thakur (Patna)



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