Covid: State govt’s decision to help private healthcare units get vaccines starts showing effects

A queue for the Covid shot outside Elite cinema on Friday afternoon.

The state government’s decision to help private healthcare units get Covid vaccines from manufacturers has started showing effects with at least one hospital being able to procure doses on Friday for which it had been trying for weeks.

Peerless Hospital received 12,000 doses of Covishield from the Serum Institute of India on Friday morning following the state government’s intervention. The hospital had paid the Pune-based manufacturer around Rs 76 lakh on May 19 for the doses.

“The company had initially promised to deliver the doses by the end of May. But later they kept saying that they would send the doses in due course of time. Earlier this week, the state government told us that it would talk to the manufacturer and help get the doses,” said Sudipta Mitra, the chief executive of Peerless Hospital.

The state government had on Wednesday asked private vaccination centres to submit their demands for vaccines, which it would pass on to the manufacturers through the Centre. Big hospital chains can keep procuring doses centrally.

An official of the state government said that till Friday evening, private healthcare units had submitted demands for around 30 lakh doses of Covishield and about seven lakh doses of Covaxin for June, July and August.

“We are holding video conferences with the Covid vaccine manufacturers, asking them to supply the doses to the private centres. The manufacturers are obliging big corporates (hospital chains) that are placing orders for five or six lakh doses. Smaller hospitals and nursing homes which don’t have the capacity to order in bulk… are not getting any commitment from the manufacturers,” said state health secretary Narayan Swaroop Nigam.

“We are providing a bigger picture to the manufacturers, showing the large market they have when demands from smaller vaccination centres are combined.”

He said the health department was collating demands from private centres and would send a combined list to the Centre, who would in turn forward it to the manufacturers. “We have placed an official to coordinate with the private centres,” said Nigam.

Another health department official said once the demands were placed, they would pursue with the manufacturers for an early supply of the doses.

Some of the smaller vaccination centres, which till now were unable to get any commitment from the manufacturers, said they were now hoping to get the supplies.

“When the state government was providing the doses, even if we asked for 100 doses, we would get them. But since May 1, we have not received anything from the manufacturers,” said Sk Alhajuddin, the chairman of the Progressive Nursing Homes and Hospitals Association and the owner of The Sun Nursing Home in Burdwan.

The nursing home has sent a demand for 8,000 doses to the state government.

Suraksha Diagnostics had received 96,000 Covishield doses about two weeks back. But it has not received any word from Bharat Biotech, the manufacturer of Covaxin.

“We got the doses after pursuing Serum Institute for more than six weeks. We have placed a demand for another one lakh doses with the state government,” said Somnath Chatterjee, the director of Suraksha Diagnostics.

“The vaccination drive is not gaining momentum, especially in small towns, because small private players are not getting access to the manufacturers. This (the state government’s intervention) is helping the small units more than the bigger chains,” said Rupak Barua, the president of the Association of Hospitals of Eastern India.

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