New Delhi: On the third day since the second phase of the Covid-19 vaccination drive began with over 50 lakh beneficiaries registering for the inoculation against the deadly virus, the Central government on Tuesday directed all states to rope in more private hospitals, including those that are not affiliated to Ayushman Bharat, CGHS and state schemes, to ease out the vaccination exercise.
The direction to states to further ramp up coverage and enlist all private hospitals was communicated to states at a high-level meeting on Tuesday chaired by Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan, along with Dr Ram S Sharma, chairman of the Empowered Group on Vaccine Administration.
“Private hospitals not empanelled under the above mentioned three categories have also been permitted to operate as COVID Vaccination Centers (CVCs)… States/UTs can proactively make efforts to use these private hospitals as CVCs,” the Health Ministry said.
The Centre also relaxed the timing to get Covid shots stating that hospitals can, in consultation with state governments, extend their vaccination sessions, and that it is not mandatory to limit the session to 5 pm. Besides, states and hospitals have been told “to open the vaccination slots for 15 days to a month”. Currently, beneficiaries applying on the Co-WIN portal can only find slots for a week.
Extending the time limit for the sessions, Health ministry, in the weekly briefing earlier in the day, said, “Co-WIN 2.0 doesn’t provide for a 9 am to 5 pm vaccination session. It has done away with the timeline. If the hospital has the capacity, the system permits the hospital to do vaccinations even after 5 pm. They need to do it in consultation with state governments.”
In Delhi, all major private hospitals are vaccinating eligible beneficiaries. “Initially, only about 54 private hospitals were named. However, the state government updated the list within a few hours to include 136 private hospitals so that maximum people are covered,” said an official. Apollo, Max, Fortis and bigger private hospital chains and standalone medical facilities in Delhi are offering the shot while there are 56 government-run hospitals where it has been administered free of cost. Apart from big names, many smaller private hospitals could also be brought onto the Co-Win portal being used to register and schedule the shots.
The second phase of the vaccination drive that began from Monday, for those above 60 years of age and those above 45 years with associated co-morbidities, around 10,000 private hospitals empanelled under government health insurance schemes were designated as vaccination centres.
States have been directed to ensure that all private hospitals that will administered Covid-19 vaccine must have “an adequate number of vaccinators, adequate space for observation of the vaccinated, adequate cold chain arrangement and adequate arrangement for the management of Adverse Events Following Immunisation”.
As per central government report there have been about 50 lakh registrations on the Co-WIN website since Monday. “Now if the average number of beneficiaries per registration is around two, it means as many as one crore people have registered,” Sharma said.
Talking about the technical glitches on the first day of the registration, the Union Health minister said, “…there could be difficulties, I am not going to deny that. However, 50 lakh persons have registered and every hour, around 2 lakh have been registering. This is good speed. However, if there are any issues, we will resolve them”. “People yesterday had complained about glitches in the system… but what had happened is that people were looking for an app. That app [Co-WIN 2.0] was not meant for this purpose [for beneficiaries to register]. Only Aarogya Setu provides that facility or beneficiaries can register on the website. Of course, we are watching the system for scalability and it should be able to take huge amounts of the load as we will be vaccinating one-sixth of humanity. We also want data to be secure and safe and that the system should be protected from cyber attacks,” Mr Bhushan said.
Meanwhile, holding the weekly briefing, ICMR Chief Dr Balram Bhargava clarified that both Covishield and Covaxin are safe to be administered for those on blood thinners. “I have said this earlier… the vaccine can be administered on those who are on blood thinners. Those who are having aspirin can continue to have it. Those who are on anti-coagulants have to stop for 1-2 days only because there could be a clot near the injection site. There is no contraindication either related to anti-coagulants or anti-platelets,” he said.
The Centre, during the review meeting, also ensured all the states and UT’s of adequate amount of vaccines in its stock, “there is no shortage of COVID vaccines” and that “adequate vaccine doses should be allocated” to vaccination centres. States have been directed to “not store, reserve, conserve or create a buffer stock of the COVID vaccines at the State and district levels”.
“Ensure adequate allocation of vaccines to all hospitals (government and private) for the entire duration for which sessions has been planned, to enable them to function as CVCs in a smooth and obstruction free manner… The Central Government has adequate stock and will provide the required vaccine doses to the States and UTs,” the states were told.
So far, five states and Union Territories have administered the first dose to 100 per cent of the registered healthcare workers- Jharkhand, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, and Lakshadweep, however, “Some of these states had reported hesitancy. Tamil Nadu was a particular cause of concern. This is a significant improvement,” claimed the Union Health Minister, Bhushan.
In starting two days of inoculation drive second phase, nearly 4,34,981 beneficiaries in the two priority groups have reportedly been given the first dose of the vaccine.