Private hospitals to double up as COVID vaccination centres

By Express News Service
NEW DELHI:  The expansion of the Covid-19  vaccination drive targeted at people above 60 and those over 45 with specified comorbidities will involve a network of private hospitals empanelled under the Central Government Health Schemes and Pradhan Mantri Jan Aarogya Yojana.

Hospitals empanelled for state-run health insurance schemes will also be the vaccination centres in this phase of the programme, set to begin from March 1, the states were told on Friday by the Centre. At a meeting with Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan and R S Sharma, chairman of the empowered group on vaccine administration, states were also informed that as  Co-WIN, the platform driving the vaccination, is being upgraded, current beneficiaries will also have a choice of vaccination centres.

As of now, healthcare and frontline workers are allocated vaccination centres and do not get an option to choose the centre of their choice. States have also been asked to ensure that the private health facilities mandatorily must have basic cold chain equipment, their own team of vaccinators and staff and adequate facility for management of any adverse event following immunisation cases for being used as vaccination centres. 

All beneficiaries, regardless of the mode of access, must have also been asked to carry specified documents (see box) for identity verification and those with comorbidities will need a certificate from a registered medical practitioner. 

“Vaccination will be free of charge at the government centres,” said the health ministry, adding that those taking the vaccine at any designated empanelled private health facility will have to pay a pre-fixed charge, which is yet to be made public.

 At the meeting, states were also asked to keep a vaccination scale-up plan ready which will include the granular weekly and fortnightly plans for scaling up the vaccination sites both within the government and private facilities and also the number of doses administered.