At a time when vaccine shortage is being reported across the country, government data has shown that only 17 per cent of doses were utilised in private hospitals last month, leaving them with massive unused stock.
According to a press release by the Health Ministry on June 4, a total of 7.4 crore doses were made available across the country in May, of which 1.85 crore doses were earmarked for private hospitals.
Private hospitals across India procured 1.29 crore vaccine doses of the available 1.85 crore shots, however, the government’s own data shows only 22 lakh doses were used.
Experts believe high prices at private hospitals in comparison to government-run hospitals and vaccine hesitancy could be the likely reason for people staying away.
Ironically, the admission of the under-utilisation is mentioned in a government press release to rebut media reports that only 7.5 per cent of the jabs were being used.
“Few media reports have mentioned that ’25 per cent doses allocated to private hospitals, but they account for only 7.5 per cent of total jabs’. These reports are not accurate and do not match with the available data,” the government release says.
Earlier this month, the government fixed the maximum price that private hospitals can charge for Covid vaccines amid opposition allegations of profiteering.
The price of Covishield has been fixed at Rs 780 a dose, Russian vaccine Sputnik V at Rs 1,145 a dose and indigenously made Covaxin, at a steep Rs 1,410 a dose. This includes taxes as well as a 150-rupee service charge for the hospitals.
Under the new vaccine policy announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi — which will be implemented from June 21, the International Yoga Day — the Centre said it will procure 75 per cent of the vaccines produced by companies, including the 25 per cent currently assigned to states. Private hospitals will continue to buy the remaining 25 per cent and vaccinate those who are willing to pay.
In government-run institutions, vaccines will be provided for free to all eligible persons.
The earlier vaccine policy announced in May has been much criticised because of the differential pricing. Critics pointed out that many countries are inoculating all sections of their population for free, with the government bearing all costs.
India has so far administered over 24 crore vaccine doses and aims to vaccinate over 108 crore people by the end of this year.