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healthcare | IST

Should government revoke 25% vaccine quota for private sector? Experts discuss

The private sector is sitting on vaccine supply saying there is no off take, there is underutilisation of the current supply, while government centres were seeing shortage and that is why many vaccine government centres shut down in states, including the BMC in Mumbai. Tamil Nadu government is now looking at how they can collaborate with the private sector and get the CSR funds to acquire vaccines for all. To take the discussion forward, CNBC-TV18 spoke to Sanjeev Novago, Managing Director and CEO, Bharat Serums and Vaccines; Dr. Iyappan Ponnuswamy, Medical Director, Kaveri Hospital; R Ramakumar, Professor at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai; and Harish Manian, MD and the CEO, MGM healthcare. Gentlemen, appreciate you joining us here on the programme.

India's active COVID cases have slipped below four lakh for the first time in the past four months as fresh infections have risen by less than 30,000 for the first time since mid-march, while recoveries have increased by more than 42,000. Some of these drops in new cases could also be on account of lower testing on Sundays, which often results in a drop in infections reported on Mondays -- number of single day deaths stood at 415, pushing India’s COVID death toll above 4.21 lakh.
India's anti-COVID vaccination drive has crossed the 44 crore doses mark, with 66 lakh jabs administered on Monday. This has led to the 7-day average for inoculations rising over 41.5 lakh, the highest level in nearly a month. So far 9.5 crore people or nearly 7.5 percent of India’s population has been fully vaccinated, while around 25 crore people have received their first jabs. There might have been an improvement in the vaccination strike rate, but India may still fall short of its July target of administering 13.5 crore doses.
The government has pulled up the private sector for not picking up the 25 percent vaccine quota allocated to them. So, has the time come for the Centre to rethink the quota provision for the private sector?
The private sector is sitting on vaccine supply saying there is no off take, there is underutilisation of the current supply, while government centres were seeing shortage and that is why many vaccine government centres shut down in states, including the BMC in Mumbai. Tamil Nadu government is now looking at how they can collaborate with the private sector and get the CSR funds to acquire vaccines for all.
To take the discussion forward, CNBC-TV18 spoke to Sanjeev Novago, Managing Director and CEO, Bharat Serums and Vaccines; Dr. Iyappan Ponnuswamy, Medical Director, Kaveri Hospital; R Ramakumar, Professor at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai; and Harish Manian, MD and the CEO, MGM healthcare. Gentlemen, appreciate you joining us here on the programme.
Is it time for the government to review (vaccine policy) because it's very clear private sector is sitting on supply but there is no offtake and government centres have more demand, less supply?
R Ramakumar said, “Is it time for a review? My quick answer is very much Yes. But I think India needs to go back to the policy of 100 percent procurement by the central government and free and universal vaccination to everyone in the country. You know that to begin with, it's important to understand that a market like the vaccine market is always more efficient, transparent and equitable, when it is more unified, systematically structured, not when it is fragmented., what the government did with the earlier 50: 25:25 strategy. And later, of course, in a, in a different way with a 75:25 strategy was to fragment the vaccine market, different prices for different vaccines for different buyers. That is a very bad strategy to follow if you want an efficient vaccine market.
He further said, “Experience across the world has shown that every country in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, every wherever you want to see all of them 100 percent procurement by a single central federal government and then giving it to everybody free and universally. That's the strategy to follow for India.”
What did India do here?
“It fragmented the vaccine market making it inefficient and opaque one; number two, it kept the prices at such high level that it became completely unaffordable to a majority of the Indian population. Essentially, the price of these vaccines in the private hospitals means vaccines were reserved for the rich to the extent of 25 percent. That was a very perverse policy. In my view,” Ramakumar said.
“The Supreme Court had said that India's vaccine policy should be just equitable and non-discriminatory on all three counts that liberalised vaccine policy of 50:25:25 or 75:25. Both of them fail on all these three counts. They are unjust, they're inequitable, and they are discriminatory in nature. These prices are completely unaffordable to a large section of the Indian population, “said Ramakumar.
In Tamil Nadu, the government is trying to work out a partnership between hospital providers and corporations to try and get them to use their CSR money to procure vaccines. Kaveri Hospital is one of the hospitals that is going to be part of this. Can you explain to us what is the plan?
Dr Ponnuswamy said, “The government is in talks with the corporates. So mainly the CII, the confederation of Indian industry is partnering with the state government and the private hospitals are trying to strengthen inoculation plan. From tomorrow the programme is starting. So we're having the chief minister who's going to start this project. So CII is building a procurement of this vaccines and the priavate hospitals are happening in the immunisation/vaccination.”
For the entire discussion, watch video.