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Vaccination: Private hospitals sat on lakhs of doses even as BMC centres faced acute crunch

Private hospitals have maintained that buying large stocks of vaccines proves cost effective, saves logistical challenges and allows better planning of the vaccination

At a time when the state government and BMC-run vaccination centres were reeling under acute shortage of Coronavirus vaccines during the last week, private hospitals in capital city Mumbai and other cities were flush with several doses of Coronavirus vaccine left in stock, the Indian Express reported. Even as the central government has announced major changes in the vaccination policy last week, there are instances like these which depict the challenges in ensuring equitable distribution of Coronavirus vaccines.

Why did state-run centres run out of stock?
Before the vaccination procurement changes announced by Prime Minister Modi last week, the state government and the private sector were on an equal footing with each entitled to receive 25 percent of the total vaccine supplies. On the other hand, 50 percent of vaccine supplies were to be handed over to the central government. According to the Indian Express report, the state government of Maharashtra on its own procured a total of 25.10 lakh Covid-19 vaccine doses in the month of May. In contrast, private hospitals based in Maharashtra got as many as 32.38 lakh vaccine doses in the same month.

The gap between the state government procurement and private hospitals stocks further compounded as the state had to distribute the vaccines all over the state whereas the major chunk of privately procured vaccine doses were allotted to Mumbai-based private hospitals. Hence, the BMC could only get 5.23 lakh vaccine doses from the state government’s quota whereas the private hospitals based in Mumbai were sitting on a whopping 22.37 lakh doses in the month of May. In comparison BMC in the month of April could secure about 9.47 lakh doses of vaccine as private hospitals were not authorised to procure 25 percent of the total vaccine lot.

Why private hospitals had lakhs of doses left?
The Indian Express quoted the BMC data which showed that during the whole month of May, the private hospitals could only utilise 3.34 lakh doses in Mumbai which is a paltry 15 percent of the total available stock with the hospitals. The availability of huge quantities of unused doses of vaccine with the private hospitals received an adverse reaction from the municipal body BMC. A senior BMC official told the Indian Express on the condition of anonymity that the private sector is buying out more vaccines than it can administer and blocking supplies of vaccine which could have been used by the government-run vaccination centres.

Response of private hospitals
Private hospitals have maintained that buying large stocks of vaccines proves cost effective, saves logistical challenges and allows better planning of the vaccination. Dr Joy Chakraborty, COO in PD Hinduja Hospital told the Indian Express that private hospitals cannot be expected to buy 10000-15000 doses at a time as it would not be economical. The Hinduja hospital had procured a total of 96000 vaccine doses and was sitting on about 70000 vaccine doses on June 2.

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