India's COVID-19 vaccination drive began on January 16. (Representative Image)
All citizens over the age of 60 and those who are above 45 with co-morbidities will from March 1 be able to get inoculated against the coronavirus as the government expands the vaccination drive.
To ramp up vaccination, the government has decided to rope in private hospitals. Phase 2 of inoculation comes at a time when some states are seeing a surge in infections, pushing up the national tally that had been declining for weeks.
India's COVID-19 tally climbed to 1,10,96,731 on February 28, with 16,752 new infections, the highest in the last 30 days, Union health ministry data shows. The death toll mounted to 1,57,051 with 113 fresh fatalities in the last 24 hours.
In the first phase, launched on January 16, the government inoculated healthcare and frontline workers. So far, more than 1.2 crore doses have been administered, with 24.5 lakh people receiving both the doses.
Also read: COVID-19 Vaccination Phase 2: Full list of comorbidities that allow people above 45 years to get the jab
At the current pace, it is estimated it would take at least two and a half years to cover the entire population. On an average, India is inoculating about 5 lakh people a day, way short of the government's target of 13 lakh.
The government has capped the price and the service charge for private hospitals to ensure there is no profiteering.
Also read | COVID-19 vaccination phase 2: Eligible beneficiaries, how to register, documents required and more
What is at stake for the private sector?
Around 10,000 private hospitals empanelled under Ayushman Bharat PMJAY, more than 600 hospitals empanelled under CGHS and other private hospitals empanelled under state governments health insurance schemes can participate as COVID vaccination centres.
These will be in addition to the government facilities being used as vaccination centres. The government will geo-tag these health facilities.
The government centres will offer the vaccine for free, with the Centre picking the tab. Private hospitals can charge a maximum of Rs 250 for a dose—Rs 150 for vaccine plus Rs 100 service charge, taking the cost of inoculation to Rs 500 a person.
India has approved Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech's Covaxin and the Serum Institute of India (SII) manufactured Covishield. Both are two-dose vaccines.
The price offered by the private hospitals will be the same or lower than what the government paid for the jabs.
The government procured Covishield from SII at a discounted price of Rs 200 a dose, excluding taxes. Covaxin was priced at Rs 295 a dose for the government.
The private health facilities must follow strict norms, quality and safety standards, including integration with the National Co-Win technology platform.
All private hospitals must also have adequate space, cold-chain arrangements, vaccinators and support staff along with arrangements for addressing adverse event following immunization, or what is commonly known as side effects.
The government is yet to concede the demand from the private sector that they be allowed to inoculate their employees using the corporate social responsibility funds.Follow our full coverage on COVID-19 here.