Once Pfizer and Moderna vaccines get approval, they will possibly start giving these vaccines.
Private healthcare providers say they are keen on offering COVID-19 vaccination, with the Union government stating that its priority now is to vaccinate the most vulnerable groups immediately.
“Currently, the vaccine is not available in the private sector. The government is focused on vaccinating its priority group with beneficiaries having to register with the government,” Randeep Guleria, Director, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), said in a video message released by the Union Health Ministry on Sunday.
Senior health officials added that the government could bring in measures to help a larger population to get vaccinated.
K. Hariprasad, president of the hospitals division at Apollo Hospitals, said: “We will follow the government regulations. The government has drawn up good plans for what is probably the largest immunisation programme in the world, and the largest preventive healthcare programme in the world. We in the private sector have always responded to the healthcare needs of the country. Similarly, the private sector is prepared to support the government even in this initiative, as and when the government directs us to do so.”
Serum Institute of India (SII) CEO Adar Poonawalla had earlier noted that the SII’s vaccine as of now would be bought by the government to be offered to beneficiaries.
“We cannot sell to the private market right now. Private players will come in only when the government looks into the matter and the permissions are granted,” he said.
Y.K. Mishra, chief of clinical services, Manipal Hospitals, said that so far, the DCGI had not given approval to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines so there was no question of either private or any government agencies using these vaccines. “Once these vaccines get the approval from the authorities in India, there will be the possibility of private hospitals also giving these vaccines. The prerequisite for this possibility will be the availability of these vaccines in the open market,” he said.
Bishnu Panigrahi, group head, medical strategy and operations, Fortis Healthcare, noted that the government would decide how to go about the vaccination roll-out.
“Dry runs have been taking place across India. Private healthcare providers need to be given permission by the government for [offering] vaccination. In case a go-ahead is given, they are prepared. As regards vaccines — the two approved so far are the Oxford/AstraZeneca/Serum Institute vaccine and the Bharat Biotech vaccine. Pfizer and Moderna approvals are yet to come in. They have logistical implications as regards storage [being] minus-70 degrees C and minus-20 degrees C, respectively,” he said.
Meanwhile, figures released by the Health Ministry note that more than 75 lakh beneficiaries have been registered on the Co-WIN software till date.
“At present, for our immediate need, our cold chain infrastructure is sufficient to ensure last-mile delivery of COVID-19 vaccine in a temperature-controlled environment across the country and we have around 1,14,100 vaccinators trained on the process to be followed at the vaccination sites which includes beneficiary verification, vaccination, cold chain and logistics management, biomedical waste management, AEFI management and uploading the information on Co-WIN software,” the Ministry said.
(With inputs from Ramya Kannan in Chennai)