Vaccine Drive: Entrepreneurs Advocate Private Sector Involvement

The CII has reportedly requested the Centre to allow wider private sector participation in the inoculation bid.

Updated
COVID-19
4 min read
File photos of Suneeta Reddy and Azim Premji, used for representational purpose.
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NITI Ayog member Dr VK Paul informed on Sunday, 21 February that details of large-scale participation of the private sector in the coronavirus vaccination drive will be available in “a matter of few days”.

Further, according to NDTV, Dr Paul said:

“Presently also, the private sector has been prominently involved in vaccinating healthcare and frontline workers. Out of 10,000 vaccination sessions on any given day, 2,000 are being conducted by private sector partners.”   

Dr Paul also added that, as we inch towards a “much speedier programme”, the private sector engagement will become “deeper and wider”.

“In a matter of a few days, just wait a little," Dr Paul said.

Dr Paul, however, isn’t alone in expressing support for the involvement of the private sector in India’s COVID-19 vaccination drive.

FM SITHARAMAN LAUDS PUBLIC-PRIVATE SECTOR COLLAB

Addressing a post-Budget interaction held by the Chamber of Industry and Commerce in Bengaluru, Union Finance Minister Nirmal Sitharaman, on Sunday, said:

“India has sent COVID vaccines to over 100 countries, and this is a classic example of how the private sector stood up to strengthen the image of India.”   

Further, Sitharaman added: “This shows inherently what India can contribute when the private and government sectors work together in addressing what is an important, life-saving intervention.”

She further added:

“With this, we are saying that India’s growing and aspiring needs and demands across sectors cannot be served just by state and central governments. The most important component is participation of the private sector.”   

PRIVATE SECTOR KEY-PLAYERS AGREE

And while the finance minister lauds the Private Sector for abetting vaccine diplomacy, the latter has been quick to propose greater involvement in India’s vaccine, with many key figures emphasising that their involvement will provide greater vaccine reach in the country.

The general claim of private sector advocates of greater involvement is that it will help in both combatting the pandemic, as well as improving the economy.   

According to NDTV, Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) Chief Uday Kotak, in a letter written to PM Modi, in January had said:

“Hospitals [should] be allowed to vaccinate critical patients and paying clients, eventually, for ensuring that the vaccine reaches all in the shortest possible time period, while not diverting resources from the government’s strategy of beneficiaries.” 

The CII has reportedly requested the Centre to allow wider private sector participation in the inoculation bid.

Meanwhile, Dr Devi Shetty too is believed to have lent support to the idea of greater private sector involvement. Further, in an interaction with FM Sitharaman, at the Bangaluru event, Dr Shetty also said:

“Health sector can transform a country and it is the largest industry as well as employer in the world, being a $10 trillion industry.”

PREMJI POSES A POSSIBILITY

Wipro founder-chairman Azim Premji, who recently passed the reigns to his company on to his son, has asked the government to immediately allow private participation in the vaccine drive, saying that over 500 million people can be vaccinated in 60 days if the government brings in private players.

Premji, according to Mint, on Sunday, told Finance Minister Sitharaman:

“There is a possibility that we can get the Serum Institute to supply vaccines at about ₹300 a shot and hospitals and private nursing homes can administer this at a cost of ₹100 per shot. So with a ₹400 a shot, it is possible to do mass vaccination of the population.”   

Meanwhile, according to a Business Standard report (dated 17 February), Serum Institute, licensed to manufacture 1 billion does of the AstraZeneca vaccine, has said that it plans to sell those shots for about five times of what it has charged the government.

CHALLENGE BEFORE THE ‘ROLE-MODEL’

Infosys chairman Nandan Nilekani, on his part, has claimed that India has become a “role model” on how to vaccinate people at “scale, speed, and trusted manner”, but has also pointed out that many vaccines are expected to be approved and manufactured in India and “then the challenge will go from supply to how it can be done at scale.”

“If you have to vaccinate at scale, we would have to vaccinate 5-10 million people per day, to make it happen,” Nilekani had said on 30 January, at an event organised by Public Affairs Forum of India (PAFI), according to Business Standard.

Claiming that the acceleration of the vaccination bid would help India out of the pandemic faster and revive the economy, Nilekani had said it would require strong cooperation between the government and the private sector.   

WHAT WE NEED TO DO, AS PER MAHINDRA GROUP CHIEF

Earlier on 16 February, when India was ranking fourth in the global vaccination race, Mahindra group chairman had tagged Dr Harsh Vardhan and tweeted: “Up to 4th place but this is clearly not enough.”

Claiming that the acceleration of the vaccination bid would help India out of the pandemic faster and revive the economy, Nilekani said it would require strong cooperation between the government and the private sector.

Pointing out that India has the production capability, Mahindra had said:

“We need to harness the private sector’s capability to scale up distribution rapidly. Widespread vaccination is our main hope against any new waves that are now a serious threat.”   
Vaccine Drive: Entrepreneurs Advocate Private Sector Involvement
(Image: Twitter)

WHAT APOLLO HOSPITALS SUNEETA REDDY SAYS

Meanwhile, on 17 February, Suneeta Reddy, Managing Director Apollo Hospitals Enterprises Ltd told Bloomberg TV that 6,000 people have been trained and 3,500 sites have been designated for an expansion of the vaccination drive. She further informed that the expansion can be expected to be carried out in March.

According to media reports, Apollo had in 2020 told clients via its digital app that they are ready to administer 1 million doses a day and the customers will “be the first ones to know” when vaccines are ready.

Suneeta Reddy still reckons it is achievable, but adds, “I do believe public and private have to work together.”

“We can exceed those numbers if we do achieve these vaccination goals, India will be well prepared for the second wave,” Suneeta Reddy said.

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