No data on vaccines procured by private hospitals across the country, states Modi government
The union government has asserted that it does not have data on the vaccines procured by private hospitals throughout the Country
The Union government has stated that it does not have data on the vaccines procured by private hospitals throughout the country, raising the question of how the government was following its own guidelines of procuring 25% of the vaccines for private hospitals and 75% of vaccines for the states and union territories.
This information was disclosed in a response from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoH&FW) to queries asked by RTI activist Kanhaiya Kumar using Right to Information Act. This declaration of lack of data comes despite the union ministry stating in a press release that more 49.64 crore doses have been provided to States/UTs so far, through all sources. Moreover, 3.14 crore balance and unutilized Covid vaccine doses are still available with the States/UTs and private hospitals to be administered.
According to the government’s revised guidelines, States/UTs would aggregate the demand of private hospitals keeping in view equitable distribution between large and small private hospitals and regional balance. Based on this aggregated demand, Government of India will facilitate supply of these vaccines to the private hospitals and their payment through the National Health Authority’s electronic platform. This is to ensure that “smaller and remoter private hospitals to obtain timely supply of vaccines, and further equitable access and regional balance”.
The government’s guidelines state that it will procure 75% of the vaccines being produced by the manufacturers in the country and be provided free of cost to States/UTs as has been the case from the commencement of the National Vaccination Programme. These doses will be administered by the States/UTs free of cost to all citizens as per priority through Government Vaccination Centres.
All private hospitals have to register as a Private Covid Vaccination Centre (PCVC) on the Cowin website to procure the vaccine, making the government's claim of no data hollow. The government had imposed a cap on the maximum number of doses which a private hospital can order, stating that the consumption at a private hospital can be estimated by multiplying the daily average consumption during the week of the choice of the PCVC in the previous month by 30.
The approval would be granted on CoWIN itself, and the payment for vaccine doses would also have to be made electronically through the National Health Authority Portal (NHA), after which the order will be processed.
Of the 47,979 sites conducting vaccination, 2,485 are run by private hospitals and clinics. But, recently the Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan had said that several private vaccination centres had not placed any order for the 25% earmarked for them. He had underscored that slow pace of COVID-19 vaccination by private centres was a “cause of serious worry”.
A press release issued by the Union Health Ministry on July 14 stated that in some States, wherever vaccine doses have been lifted by PCVCs, the actual administration of COVID vaccines is seen to be less than the vaccine quantity lifted. Additionally, the quantity of vaccines paid for has not been physically lifted by the states/PCVCs.
This lack of data and transparency over purchase of doses by the private sector is grave because there is a shortage of vaccines in government hospitals, where vaccines are being administered free of charge. It also implies an inequity in terms of vaccine supply to states as some private hospitals have a greater share than others, creating an imbalance in vaccine allocation between states.
There is a need to know the number of doses released to the private hospitals because less than 6% of the population has been vaccinated.
This shortage of vaccine had forced Delhi to stop administering the first dose of Covishield, produced by Serum Institute of India, at government centres until July 31. On August 1, 2021, the government had instructed government centres to restart administration of Covishield first dose in the ratio of 20:80 (first dose : second dose).
Even as government centres stared at vaccine shortage, private centres could administer both doses, but a look through the CoWIN website made it evident that there were very few takers for the paid vaccine in the National Capital due to the high price of the vaccines. A single dose of Covishield is priced at Rs 780 and Covaxin at Rs 1,410, making it expensive for most Indians and most are opting for free vaccines.
In Tamil Nadu, private hospitals purchased only 5 lakh doses though their allotment for July was 17 lakh doses. This led the state government to buy the remaining 12 lakh doses using CSR funds and administer them to people free of cost. Tamil Nadu was one of the states, which had requested the Union government to reduce the 25% quota for private hospitals to 10%, but it was turned down.
In Rajasthan, private hospitals were allocated 16.3 lakh doses, but they managed to use only 2.2 lakh doses in the month. Since May, only 3.5 lakh doses have been administered in private hospitals in the state.
Several public health experts have stated that the pace of vaccination at private hospitals slowed down because of the exorbitant price of the vaccines at a time when many people have lost their jobs or have seen their incomes reduced due to the Covid-19 triggered pandemic.
The Congress party had demanded in June 2021 that vaccination should be free to all citizens at both government and private hospitals and centres. Questioning the government policy, Congress leader Jairam Ramesh had said that government must work out a transparent allocation formula in consultation with states and underscored that there should be no discrimination in vaccine distribution.
The Indian government has been stating in responses to Parliament queries that it doesn't not have data on deaths due to Oxygen shortage during the second Covid-19 wave, no data on the number of health workers who died due to Covid-19, on the number of migrants who lost their lives because of the pandemic-related lockdown, on how many migrants lost their jobs, no data on police personnel fatalities due to the pandemic, no data on the unorganised sector, no data on the plasma banks in the country and no data on death of manual scavengers in the country. Without the required data, the question of compensation does not arise.
The government has also maintained that it has no data on how many farmers have lost their lives during the course of the farmers protest and no information on the black money stashed abroad.