File image: A healthcare worker holding a rose receives an AstraZeneca's COVISHIELD vaccine, during the COVID-19 vaccination campaign, at a medical centre in Mumbai, India on January 16, 2021. (Image: Reuters/Francis Mascarenhas)
Private facilities can collect a "service charge" of up to Rs 100 from the beneficiaries to meet the operational expenses they will be incurring during the vaccination drive against COVID-19. This will be in addition to the cost of the vaccines, government sources told IANS on February 26.
This decision was taken factoring inputs from major private healthcare brands.
"Whatever is the cost the vaccine provided to them, they (private facilities) will have a band of Rs 100 to incur the operational cost of the vaccines which includes syringes, needles, manpower etc.," reported IANS, adding that the government has clarified that the private centres will not be allowed to charge more than Rs 100 (plus cost of the dose) from the beneficiaries.
Vaccines to private centres will be provided by the government itself, or they can avail the vaccine from public hospitals having cold storage facilities.
However, the deliberation for the cost at which the government would provide vaccines to private healthcare facilities is still going on and a decision will be out at the latest.
While there is no official word from the government yet, officials said that the rate is being fixed at a reasonable price.
"The government is looking to fix the judicious cost of the vaccines," said Suneela Garg, public health expert and member of the government task force for Covid vaccination.
"Covaxin costs a bit higher, while Covishield is cheaper and more widely available than the former. The government is bothered by the possibility that one vaccine being at a higher price may discourage the beneficiaries from taking it," a senior official said.
Gajendra Pal Singh, member of the expert committee on vaccine administration, said, "The private facilities will have to show their intent first. After the approval, they will be able to receive vaccine doses," he said.
He also said that the beneficiaries will not have a choice over the two vaccines. "They will have to take the vaccine as per its availability at the vaccination centre. If a centre has Covaxin, the beneficiary will be provided that vaccine only," he said.
However, the beneficiaries can choose which centre they wish to go to for vaccination in their respective city, Singh added.
Four mandatory prerequisites have been decided by the government for any healthcare facility to become a vaccination centre. The facility must have adequate space, must have cold chain equipment for storing vaccine vials, must have its own team of vaccinations and staff and must have an adequate facility for management of any AEFI cases
The third phase of vaccination against COVID-19 pandemic will begin from March 1 and will cover 27 crore of people above 60 years of age and those above 45 years of age with comorbidities at 10,000 government and over 20,000 private vaccination centres.
While people will be vaccinated free of cost at the government hospitals, those taking the shots at private hospitals will have to pay.(With Inputs from Agencies)