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india | IST

Vaccination drive in private centres down but will ensure no dose is wasted, say doctors

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With the government providing free vaccines, and very aggressively, the demand for private sector vaccination was bound to come down, said Dr Sudarshan Ballal of Manipal Hospitals. Meanwhile, there are many inquiries for paediatric vaccinations, said Dr Ramalingam Kalyan, Director and Head of Paediatric Department, Max Hospital (Delhi’s Vaishali).

Over 13,000 new COVID-19 cases have been added in the last 24 hours -- active cases fell by over 1,100, taking recoveries to over 13,800 in the same period. Deaths increased by 340 in a single day. The positivity rate is back above 1 percent.
According to data mapped by the Centre, 109.08 crore vaccine doses were administered in the country till November 9. In percentage terms, 79 percent of adult population in the country has been administered the first dose, but only 37.1 percent have got the second dose -- which is a headache for the government.
Several countries, including the US, are inoculating children. The head of the technical advisory group on vaccination, N.K. Arora, had told CNBC-TV18 three weeks ago that in India, children could perhaps be inoculated by next year, but those with comorbidities may get the vaccine this year itself.
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To take stock of India’s vaccination situation, CNBC-TV18 spoke to Dr Sudarshan Ballal, Chairman, Manipal Hospitals; Dr Ramalingam Kalyan, Director and Head of Paediatric Department, Max Hospital (Delhi’s Vaishali); and Dr Anoop Misra, Executive Chairman, Fortis C-Doc Hospital.
With the government flagging off an aggressive door-to-door vaccination campaign, the private sector has seen a steady decline in its pace of vaccinations. Dr Ballal underscored that point, saying, “We were vaccinating about 50,000 people a day at the peak (of the drive). Now vaccination in the private sector has come down to less than 10 percent of what it used to be.” The reason is the easy availability of vaccines at the government centres, where the shots are free. After initial hiccups, the government has been very aggressive, reaching a landmark of vaccinating around 110 crore people, he said.
“With the government providing free vaccines, and very aggressively, the demand for private sector vaccination would come down. Also, we need to realise that most of the private sector corporate hospitals cater to the cities, which had a much higher incidence of vaccination in the early part of the drive,” Dr Ballal said.
When asked about their vaccination stocks and future plans, Dr Ballal said they had been judicious in ordering the vaccines, therefore they never had huge stocks, nor so now.
“Certainly no vaccine should be wasted. We are willing to use them in whatever way possible. First, the government has extended the expiry date for most of the vaccines. So we have enough time, and obviously we would be happy to work with the government in using the (leftover) vaccine stocks. Even if it’s CSR activity, we are willing,” he said, adding that they currently have a stock of 1,000 vaccines.
Dr Kalyan said they had administered a sizeable number of vaccinations in the recent past, but with more government facilities coming up and more free vaccines available, Max has seen a 10-15 percent drop in the last 7-10 days.
“Possibly we are dropping down slightly in daily vaccination rates, but at the same time, there are many inquiries for paediatric vaccinations,” he said.
The top administration in our group is in talks with the government as well. We do not intend to waste any vaccine dose. So as the talks progress, and we get the approvals, we will go ahead with the programme as scheduled, said Dr Kalyan.
On paediatric vaccination, Dr Kalyan clarified that at the moment they do not have any clear guidelines from the government on how the private sector is going to participate in the programme. As we have a big presence in Delhi and NCR, running some of the school health programmes, access and the last mile delivery should be much easier for us in case the government gives us the go-ahead with paediatric vaccination, he said.
Once the governmental policies come in and the guidelines are clear, we are willing to take up the challenge, assured Dr Kalyan.
There is a significant gap between the first and the second dose numbers across the country. When asked how much of a challenge that was for the private sector, Dr Mishra said, "We were actively immunising people as far as my hospital is concerned, till around 30-40 days back. Subsequently, when the government centres opened up and free vaccinations were available in government hospitals, the inquiries dropped and the people stopped coming."
"I suppose many of them are going to the government facilities… certainly, there is a huge downturn as far as the second dose is concerned," he added. Something has to be done to boost the second doses, Dr Misra said.
For the full discussion, watch the video