Vaccination Drive 2.0: Right Step, Just In Time

by Karan Bhasin - Feb 24, 2021 06:20 PM +05:30 IST
Vaccination Drive 2.0: Right Step, Just In TimeVaccination drive.
  • The second phase from 1 March will have 10,000 government and over 20,000 private vaccination centres – which reveals the extent of healthcare capacity that the country has – most of it in the private sector.

At last, the public vaccination drive has been expanded in India as the government is all set to vaccinate people above the age of 60 and those above the age of 45 with co-morbidities from 1 March.

This expansion in our vaccination drive has come with significant criticism over the last couple of weeks due to slow pace of vaccinations. The key point here is that the next stage of the vaccination drive will also include the private sector, which will help strengthen the vaccination efforts which are critical for restoring normalcy.

A possible reason behind the controlled first phase of vaccination programme could be to enable the government to scale it down, should something go wrong.

The gradual vaccination programme has also helped establish trust in these vaccines. Having achieved the same, it makes sense to now allow the private sector to contribute towards the vaccination efforts.

The second phase from 1 March will have 10,000 government and over 20,000 private vaccination centres – which reveals the extent of healthcare capacity that the country has – most of it in the private sector.

The private sector capacity will come in handy as the country scales up its vaccination efforts, which will be a repeat of India’s experience with testing as testing too saw the government role till a point beyond which it allowed the private sector to come in and assist the government in its efforts to trace, test and treat patients.

Allowing the private sector to come in at this moment could ensure that we are able to get ahead of the curve within the first half of the financial year – which by itself will be a major achievement.

The other interesting dimension to the second phase is the approach adopted towards the cost of the vaccination drive. That is, the government will offer the vaccine free of cost at its 10,000 centres.

What this means is that people can get the vaccine at a private clinic where they may have to pay for the same. This is important and must be appreciated as the government has provided for an option to get free vaccines which will help accelerate the process of normalization – but this option is limited to government-run centres.

Thus, people who can afford to pay and would prefer to get the vaccine at their regular private clinic have the option to do so. This way, the financial burden on the government for providing free vaccines would be lower, allowing it to target its resources to those who genuinely cannot afford the vaccines.

In all likelihood, most people will end up relying on the private centres to get vaccinated and thus, they may end up paying for the vaccines themselves.

The key advantage of this model is not just in terms of the reduced financial costs, but mostly in terms of the ability to add fresh capacity to out vaccination efforts and ensure further ability to scale it up in a short span of time.

The other approach towards vaccination by first targeting the most vulnerable group is also one that prioritizes the need to contain Covid–19 related deaths and is consistent with the risk-minimizing approach that the government has adopted since the start of the pandemic.

That approach has already yielded rich dividends and many nations are looking at various aspects of this approach so as to implement them within their respective countries.

So far, India has managed to perform well with respect to handling the Covid–19 pandemic – whether on the economic challenges or on the public healthcare front.

The slow pace of vaccination was indeed a concern in an otherwise exceptional performance. However, things will dramatically change with the second round of vaccination in March.

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