NEW DELHI: In a move that will allow a significant rise in the number of health facilities being used as Covid vaccination centres, the Centre permitted states to start inoculation at private hospitals, not empanelled under any Central or state-run health insurance schemes.
The states and Union territories were also urged not to store, preserve, conserve or create a buffer stock of the COVID-19 vaccines, the Union Health Ministry said in a statement, a day after the start of the second phase of India's inoculation drive in which the coverage has been expanded to include everyone above 60 and those over 45 with specified co-morbidities.
The development came as the vaccinations for those above 60 and those over 45 with underlying diseases crossed the 2.1-lakh mark.
When the second phase of the nationwide Covid vaccination drive started on Monday, the Centre had permitted only private hospitals empanelled under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana, Central Government Health Scheme and state health insurances.
At an official review meeting with the states, the Centre reiterated there is no shortage of the vaccines and hence, adequate vaccine doses should be allocated to the COVID Vaccination Centres (CVCs).
"The central government has adequate stock and will provide the required vaccine doses to the states and UTs," it said.
The Centre also urged the states to utilise 100% capacity of all private hospitals empanelled under the insurance schemes to enable them to effectively function as Covid vaccination centres.
The states and the UTs were also told to ensure adequate allocation of COVID-19 vaccines to all hospitals, government as well as private, for the entire duration for which vaccination sessions have been planned.
The states in consultation with the private hospitals should open vaccination slots for 15 days to a month and announce this as part of their vaccine time table, it added.
“They have to ensure adequate allocation of vaccines to all hospitals for the entire duration for which sessions are planned.”
The states and UTs were asked to regularly collaborate with the private hospitals to ensure that their optimum capacity for vaccination is utilised.
"Private hospitals not empanelled under the above-mentioned three categories have also been permitted to operate as CVCs if they 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(AEFI)," the statement said.
In addition to all the government health facilities, all private hospitals empanelled under the CGHS, the AB-PMJAY and the state health insurance schemes can function as CVCs, subject to them mandatorily adhering to certain norms, the statement said.
All private vaccination centres should have effective crowd management protocols in place, along with facilities for seating, water, proper signage etc.
They should also ensure adherence to COVID-appropriate behaviour among the beneficiaries.
The state and district administrations would proactively facilitate this, the health ministry said.
"Further, states and UTs in consultation with the private hospitals should open the vaccination slots for 15 days to a month and announce this as part of their Vaccine Time Table," it added.
Amid reports of lakhs still struggling to register and getting vaccination slots on CoWIN, authorities, meanwhile, insisted that the portal is equipped to handle a large number of users at a time.
The portal can be scaled up to accommodate all potential and eligible beneficiaries. It should be put to effective use as the backbone of the vaccination programme, it further said.
This information was shared by Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan and Dr Ram S Sharma, the Chairman of the Empowered Group on Vaccine Administration (Co-WIN) and member, National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration of COVID-19 (NEGVAC), during a high-level review meeting with the additional chief secretaries, principal secretaries and secretaries of the health and family welfare departments of all the states and Union territories through a video-conference.
They also reviewed the status and pace of the second phase of the countrywide COVID-19 vaccination programme.
Ram Sewak Sharma, the CEO of the National Health Authority who also heads the empowered group on Covid vaccination, said that the glitches occurred since people started downloading the mobile app of CoWIN, which is only available to the administrators.
“This made the app slow for one or two hours, but it picked up pace later,” he said, adding that it was a people-friendly system that will get better.
Meanwhile, the cumulative number of COVID-19 vaccine doses given in the country has crossed 1.54 crore which include 6,09,845 shots administered on Tuesday, the Union Health Ministry said in its provisional data.
The countrywide vaccination drive was rolled out on January 16 with healthcare workers (HCWs) being inoculated against the virus.
Vaccination of the frontline workers (FLWs) started on February 2.
The next phase of COVID-19 vaccination commenced on March 1 for those who are over 60 years of age and for people aged 45 and above with specified co-morbid conditions.
A total of 1,54,61,864 vaccine doses have been given, as per the provisional report till 7 pm, the ministry said.
These include 67,32,944 HCWs who have taken the 1st dose and 26,85,665 HCWs who have taken the 2nd dose, 55,47,426 FLWs (1stdose), 828 FLWs (2nd dose), and 4,34,981 beneficiaries more than 60 years old and 60,020 beneficiaries aged 45 and above with specific co-morbidities, the ministry said.
A total of 6,09,845 vaccine doses were given till 7 pm on Tuesday, the forty-sixth day of nationwide COVID-19 vaccination.
Out of which 5,21,101 beneficiaries were vaccinated for 1st dose and 88,744 HCWs and FLWs received 2nd dose of vaccine as per the provisional report, the ministry said, adding final reports would be completed for the day by late night.
(With PTI Inputs)