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Task agency with purchases: Devi Shetty

Covid: Call for Centre’s role on all doses

Delhi should task an agency to buy and disburse vaccines among states and hospitals: Devi Shetty
Devi Shetty

Sanjay Mandal   |   Calcutta   |   Published 05.06.21, 01:52 AM

The Covid vaccine distribution system in India should change to achieve better coverage, said Devi Shetty, cardiac surgeon and a member of the national task force set up by the Supreme Court to look into the Covid situation in the country.

The Centre, he said, should appoint an agency that will procure all doses of Covid vaccines from the manufacturers and distribute those to the state governments and all hospitals in the country to make the drive successful.

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Shetty spoke to Metro on Friday on issues like vaccine distribution, importance of vaccinating maximum number of people and how to make the doses affordable for everyone.

Vaccine distribution

“The vaccine distribution system should change. One central agency should procure the vaccines and distribute them to all hospitals across the country,” said Shetty, the chairman and founder of Narayana Health, which runs five hospitals in Calcutta and nearby areas.

“Also, no hospital should store a dose for more than three to four days. If they can't use it, the vaccine should be handed over to another hospital which has more demand but fewer doses. This way more people can be covered,” he said.

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“The government has done a good job vaccinating healthcare workers. Now it should follow the same process.”

Among the private hospitals, Shetty said, big corporate chains have been able to procure a large number of doses. But smaller hospitals are not so lucky.

In Calcutta, many standalone private hospitals are unable to buy vaccines. Peerless Hospital is yet to get the Covishield consignment it has paid for. “We paid (the Serum Institute of India, the manufacturer of Covishield) Rs 76 lakh for 12,000 doses more than 20 days back but are yet to get any vaccine,” said Sudipta Mitra, the chief executive of the hospital.

Belle Vue is keen to place an order for 50,000 doses of Covaxin. “However, there has been no response yet from the manufacturer (Bharat Biotech),” said Pradip Tondon, the CEO of Belle Vue. The hospital is administering only Covishield.

Maximum coverage

Shetty said the only way to prevent Covid patients from turning critical in large numbers if a third wave struck was maximising the vaccination coverage.

“The Covid third wave should not be as virulent as the second one. It should be like a common cold and that will only be possible if the maximum number of people are vaccinated,” said Shetty.

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He said Narayana Health’s Bangalore hospital had around 700 Covid patients at one point but only a few among them who had been fully vaccinated needed to be shifted to the critical care unit.

“We should do it now. If we wait for many people to get vaccinated next year, it will be too late,” warned Shetty.

If children start getting infected in large numbers and need to be admitted to hospital, their parents will have to stay with them.

“It will be unfair to send a parent who has not been vaccinated to stay in a Covid ward,” he pointed out.

Affordable vaccine

Shetty said that ideally everyone should be vaccinated against Covid for free but that was not possible because of budgetary constraints.

“So, there should be a capping. No private centre should be allowed to charge more than Rs 200 over the cost of procurement,” he said.

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Hospitals under Narayana Health, including the RN Tagore International Institute of Cardiac Sciences in Calcutta, are administering Covishield for Rs 630 a dose.

Narayana Health, in collaboration with Give India Foundation, an NGO, will administer Covid vaccines to slum dwellers for free.

“Many of these people work as help and drivers at residential complexes. They have lost their livelihood because residents of these highrises or houses are not allowing them in fearing Covid,” said Shetty.

“Those who can afford will be charged Rs 630 for a dose and then requested to donate one free vaccine for a poor person,” said Shetty.



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