Vaccine doses lie unused in private hospitals as States cry for supplies

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Contrary to expectation, private hospitals are seeing a slow pace of Covid-19 vaccination, leading to doses lying unutilised even as State-run centres face a supply squeeze.

With the demand for vaccines at private hospitals lower than the stocks available with them, some States have sought a review of the policy allocating 25 per cent of supplies to private players.

In Andhra Pradesh, although 35 lakh doses have been supplied to private hospitals since May, till date only 4.63 lakh doses have been utilised. In Tamil Nadu, of the 1.85 crore doses administered so far, just 5 per cent was at private hospitals.

While AP demanded re-allocation of unsed doses by private hospitals to the State, Tamil Nadu asked the Centre to reduce private hospital supplies to 10 per cent so that more doses would go to State centres. Maharashtra, too, is mulling interventions to put the unutilised private stocks to better use.

No private orders
Enquiries by BusinessLine found that the situation was not very different in Telangana, Gujarat, and Delhi. Recently, Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan had said that several private vaccination centres had not placed any order for the 25 per cent earmarked for them.

Anoop Lawrence, General Manager of Mumbai’s Global Hospitals, said a few hospitals were sitting on huge stocks, making it difficult for other vaccinating centres (government and private) to get doses. “The CoWin app should include a feature to limit the stocks that hospitals can order, if they are still sitting on unutilised stock,’’ he suggested.

Vaccination has, in fact, come to a halt in Mumbai, Thane and other locations the last couple of days due to vaccine shortage. Nashik, Sangli and Kolhapur too are facing shortages, though shots were available at many private hospitals. Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar said the State had not slowed its vaccination, but was waiting for stocks.

Pricing pains
Private hospital representatives admit to no demand from the middle class, as expected.

Gurpreet Sandhu, President, Council for Healthcare and Pharma, said the high cost of vaccines at private hospitals, at ₹800-1,400, was a deterrent for many people. “Large Huge hospital chains like Max Healthcare, Apollo Hospitals, and Fortis have the strength…,” he said, indicating that smaller institutions may not have the paying capacity to procure in large numbers.

A Vadodara-based hospital network source said, “The purchases have to be on 100 per cent advance payment. Second, many people now prefer government vaccine centres either for free doses or for proximity and convenience. A paid centre involves costs of infrastructure and staff. And it isn’t viable if we don’t administer 100-150 doses a day. That is not happening now.”

Many private hospitals that had set-up paid vaccination centrers, have now suspended operations due to low turnout and unfavourable cost economics.

No issue, say some hospitals
However, several private hospitals indicated they were comfortable with the vaccine procurement and supply situation. Jyoti Mishra with Aakash Healthcare Super Speciality Hospital, Dwarka, said they had vaccine reserves for more than a month, and had not faced issues. Similarly, Harish Manian, Chief Executive at Chennai’s MGM Healthcare, said, “enough” vaccines had been procured and they were “well-equipped” to cater to the demand.

An official at CIMS Hospitals (Ahmedabad) said, they would be happy to continue with vaccinations, provided there was clarity on the supply-chain.

At Mumbai’s Breach Candy Hospital, the focus was to get people vaccinated at their offices, said Chief Executive, N Santhanam. “With people working from home, the infrastructure is available and over two-three days, employees and their families get vaccinated,” he said, adding, there were no problems with procurement and supplies.

In the city’s suburbs, Jupiter Hospital’s Chairman and Managing Director Dr Ajay Thakker said, the hospital has about half a million vaccine stocks that will last them over three months, adding: “There was no concern on stocks lying idle.’’

Of the 40,870 sites conducting vaccination on Thursday, 38,966 are government-run and 1,904 private sites, according to the CoWin dashboard.,,

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