By Dr. Girdhar Gyani,
The ongoing pandemic has had a huge impact on the national economy and livelihoods of rich and poor alike. With the vaccination drive rolled out across the length and breadth of the country, it is a responsibility of major private sector stakeholders that they should contribute in meeting the challenge of immunising Indians so as to mitigate the burden off the government shoulders for it to better focus on the poor, the underprivileged and those at risk.
Public-private partnership model
The early stages of the pandemic saw the Government struggling to make the ends meet with short supply of public health infrastructure. However, with the entry of the private sector, the country witnessed a scale up in the testing process and availability of critical care beds in private sector, leading to better handling and containment of the pandemic in the later months.
Likewise, if given a chance, the private sector has the potential to play a game-changing role in the COVID-19 immunisation programme. For this to happen, it is important to integrate the private sector into a National AntiCOVID Mission platform and the process has to begin NOW.
India started vaccination on 16th January 2021 and was first to achieve 7-lakh in 26- days. But thereafter we have been averaging at 2.5 lakh vaccines per day as against USA which is averaging more than 12-lakhs per days. India rightly decided to use government facilities for vaccination during the pilot phase in vaccinating healthcare workers and front-line staff. Now that pilot phase is over, it is time to fast track the vaccination drive, more so when some states are showing rise in infection and new strains are surfacing. We can surely include private sector hospitals as vaccination centres. India has 3000+ private hospitals with 100+ bed capacity, which will have requisite infrastructure and can vaccinate between 100-500 persons per day. Similarly, there are about 25000 hospitals with bed size between 30-100. At least 50% of these can be identified as vaccine delivery centres. These hospitals along with present government facilities will be able to boost the vaccination drive.
While we utilise private sector infrastructure to deliver vaccination as per government scheme, there is opportunity to jack up vaccination through open market. Government may allow vaccine to be procured by designated big private hospitals and deliver to institutional clients at regulated cost. For example, PSUs may decide to vaccinate their employees at cost. Similarly, corporate companies, educational institutes, banks etc. may like to do the same. This will enable big boost to vaccinate and also reduce on the economic burden on the government
Association of Healthcare Providers (India) has developed a training program for vaccinators, by which thousands of healthcare workers can be trained through hybrid model (partly on-line and partly through hands-on). India can easily deliver 2-million vaccines per day and knowing that India is the vaccine capital of the world, it would be logical to achieve this mark.
To sum up, we have great opportunity and necessity to vaccinate our vast population, more so when world over there is fresh surge in infection. The government can use the services of health workers in the private sector for the vaccination drive and speed up the entire process right from the stage where vaccine is procured to the time it is delivered. Millions could be vaccinated in this manner with extraordinary speed and in turn, protect both lives and livelihoods.
(The author is Director General, Association of Healthcare Providers (India). Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)