A week since Tamil Nadu launched its ambitious plan of mobilising companies’ CSR funds towards vaccine procurements, the government told CNBC-TV18 that the state is on track to procure a million vaccine doses from private-sector funding.
"We have a commitment of one million vaccine doses from various companies’ CSR funds," said J Radhakrishnan, principal secretary, health (Tamil Nadu) in an exclusive chat with CNBC-TV18. "We are on track to reaching our target of one million doses for the private sector through these funds," he added.
Late last month, Tamil Nadu laid bare its plans to urge private enterprises in the state to re-direct CSR funds towards vaccine procurements in light of unutilised vaccine allocation set aside for the private sector. In late July, there were 12 lakh vaccine doses allocated for the private sector in Tamil Nadu that companies had not utilised.
The government's claim today essentially means that 10 lakh of those doses have been procured thanks to CSR funds. A number of these procurements have come from small towns like Hosur, where the Tamil Nadu government is embarking on a mass vaccination drive utilising the private sector’s vaccine allocation.
"Tamil Nadu’s aim is to ensure that 25 percent of vaccine allocation towards the private sector is fully utilised," said Radhakirshnan, "In a town like Hosur and other smaller districts, we are seeing many companies get together to contribute funds and procure small batches of vaccines to the tune of 100 doses."
This strategy aside, the state has clarified that its stance on reducing the private sector’s vaccine allocation from 25 percent to 10 percent remains unchanged. Of the 2.39 crore vaccines administered in Tamil Nadu, private hospitals have accounted for only a little over 15 lakh doses — well under 25 percent.
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For the moment Tamil Nadu's CSR approach to vaccine administration, the government feels, gives it the teeth to expedite inoculation across the state. "The CSR route has given private hospitals the financial muscle to keep vaccinating," said Radhakrishnan.
On Monday, union health minister Mansukh Mandaviya told parliament that manufacturers need not necessarily have to set aside 25 percent of vaccine stocks for the private sector, and could choose to sell hospitals how many ever vaccine stocks were required. The health minister, in fact, admitted that the private sector was accounting for only 7 to 9 percent of all vaccine procurements.
'Incorrect to say that vaccine supplies have not eased out'
Another challenge that the state has been dealing with, aside from having its private sector vaccine allocation underutilised, is the constant refrain that the Centre has not been under-allocating vaccine doses to Tamil Nadu. However, Radhakrishnan said the months ahead could see more doses come the state’s way.
"It is incorrect to say that central supplies have not eased out,” said Radhakrishnan, "Vaccine supplies from the Indian government have eased out, and the Centre has begun supplying extra vaccine doses to Tamil Nadu whenever required. The state has been facing logistical issues in distributing vaccines to 3,000 points across the state.”
Given the politics over vaccine allocation, especially in Tamil Nadu, the bureaucracy’s admission is significant. For instance, in July, the Tamil Nadu government was allocated 51 lakh vaccine, but ended up getting 70 lakh doses in all — 19 lakh more doses. The state health department expects this dynamic system of vaccine supply to continue.
"We are expecting more than the assured supply from the Centre in the coming months," said Radhakrishnan. For August, Tamil Nadu's vaccine allocation stands at 76 lakh, with a scope of increasing allocation depending on the pace of vaccination.