Private hospital groups sweep vaccines further widen urban-rural access divide
New Delhi: A report by Indian express highlighted how only nine large corporate hospital groups bought half of the vaccines made available to private hospitals in May, most of them serving major cities.
The report shows the huge gap in access to vaccines between urban and rural areas and also lends credence to concerns raised by many when the Center opened up the vaccine market, leaving private actors large and small, and State governments compete with more than 50% of vaccine production.
According to the policy in effect since May 1, the Center will buy 50% of the vaccines to be distributed for the free vaccination of people over 45 years old. The rest will have to be bought by state governments and private actors, from the manufacturers themselves.
The report says the Center purchased 50.9% (4.03 crore) of the vaccines made available to it by the Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech in May. State governments bought 33.5% (2.66 crore) and private hospitals 15.6% (1.20 crore).
Of the 1.20 crore, the nine major hospital groups purchased 60.57 lakh doses. The rest of the vaccines were divided by some 300 hospitals, but even they barely extended services beyond Tier 2 cities.
The grouped supply is therefore:
Apollo Hospitals (nine hospitals in the group purchased 16.1 lakh doses);
Max Healthcare (six hospitals, doses of 12.97 lakh);
HN Hospital Trust, managed by the Reliance Foundation (9.89 lakh doses);
Medica hospitals (6.26 lakh doses);
Fortis Healthcare (eight hospitals purchased 4.48 lakh doses);
Godrej (3.35 lakh doses);
Manipal Health (doses of 3.24 lakh);
Narayana Hrudalaya (2.02 lakh doses)
and Techno India Dama (2 lakh doses).
While it’s not clear exactly how much each hospital group sought (if at all) to distribute vaccine doses even among their own hospitals, the report highlighted how even all nine groups strongly favored metropolitan cities. Lack of responses to Express However, questions have prevented the outlet from assessing how many doses may have been administered through health camps, partnerships with businesses, or collaborations with small clinics or housing companies in small towns.
Available purchasing data shows that Delhi NCR, Mumbai metropolitan area, Kolkata, Bengaluru and Hyderabad account for 80% of the total vaccine doses purchased in May.
“Apollo hospitals bought shares in nine cities. An Apollo spokesperson said part of the purchased stock was distributed to Apollo clinics, Apollo Spectra and group hospitals in Level II cities like Nashik and Indore, but admitted the group was not not present in rural areas, ”the report said.
By comparison, private hospitals in small towns only received thousands of doses of the vaccine against much larger orders.
The report also notes how the price of vaccines to private hospitals (Rs 600 for Covishield from IBS and Rs 1,200 for Covaxin from Bharat Biotech) acts as a compelling factor for manufacturers to sell to them. In comparison, states pay Rs 300 for Covishield and Rs 600 for Covaxin.
“For their part, hospitals charge consumers between Rs 850 and Rs 1,000 for Covishield and Rs 1,250 for Covaxin,” the report notes, adding that the price itself may put off anyone other than a selection of residents of the region. city.
On May 31, the Supreme Court criticized the Centre’s vaccination policy against COVID-19, which it described as “prima facie arbitrary and irrational”, ordering a review.
The highest court questioned the Centre’s policy of arranging free COVID-19 vaccines for citizens over 45, healthcare workers and frontline workers, while asking people aged 18 at age 44 to pay for the vaccination.
The judiciary also criticized the decisions of the Center on the liberalized vaccination policy; differential pricing of vaccines for central, state and private hospitals; the basis of such a standard; and mandatory registration on the Co-WIN portal to reserve jab slots, citing the “huge digital divide” between rural and urban India. The government has been invited to answer court questions in two weeks.