From accredited diagnostic laboratories to the neighbourhood general practitioner, more of such qualified people should be roped in to give the Covid-19 vaccine, said Dr Harsh Mahajan, President of NatHealth.
Even as the Centre expands the Covid-19 vaccine coverage to the 18 to 44 years age group, he said in a non-Covid context, people did go to their local doctors to get vaccinated. So, it need not be any different this time as the vaccines are safe, he said, adding that people could be cautioned to get in touch in case of side-effects.
Expanding vaccination beyond the designated Centres and hospitals, though, would hinge on getting vaccine supplies. Presently, private hospitals are slow to get off the blocks because of inadequate supplies.
In fact, he pointed out that multiple healthcare associations, including Nathealth, had told the Centre to continue with its centralised procurement of vaccines for the States, which, in turn, would supply the hospitals.
“We told the Centre to continue with the existing system for another three months, till a system is in place,” Dr Mahajan, who is also Founder and Chief Radiologist, Mahajan Imaging, told BusinessLine.
The Centre’s decision to expand vaccine coverage to the younger age group had also opened up States and private hospitals to buy 50 per cent of a vaccine-maker’s capacity. But this system did not take-off as expected, as private hospitals were told by vaccine makers that vaccines were not available till June/ July.
“Hospitals are service providers, we cannot compete with the State governments,” he said. Also the differential pricing to States and private hospitals could lead to more inequities in distribution, Dr Mahajan pointed out. Several public health experts had pointed out that wealthier States and larger corporate hospitals would be able to bargain and garner supplies, leaving open a very real possibility that less affluent States and smaller hospitals and healthcare institutions could get left behind in this race to get vaccines.
In fact, even the Supreme Court had observed on the Centre’s vaccine pricing policy that it needed to be revisited. Against such a backdrop, Dr Mahajan pointed out that healthcare institutions, like the many Nathealth represents, were ready to vaccinate and take it across to offices and resident welfare associations as well. But the government needs to ensure that all are supplied vaccines at the same price and private institutions are protected from liabilities, as they set about expanding the coverage for Covid-19 vaccines across the country, he added.