With just four days to go for the Covid-19 vaccination drive to open to everyone over 18 years, the roadmap for private hospitals in terms of vaccine supplies and pricing is quite unclear.

Several private hospitals are in talks with the vaccine-makers to procure doses, but it looks unlikely any will be available to them up to June, representatives of multiple private hospital told BusinessLine .


Come May 1, when the Centre’s expanded vaccination programme gets underway, private hospitals will probably have to continue to source from the State governments, they said, even as clarity eludes on the price at which hospitals will get the vaccines and the rate at which they will administer to people.

But as States followed suit announcing free vaccines through government-run hospitals, the expectation is that they will ask the vaccine-makers to bring down their prices. Hospital sources also expect a cap on prices at which they would be allowed to vaccinate people.

At the Apollo Group of hospitals, officials await clarity on the government vaccine supply and the direct procurement process from manufacturers. “It might take a couple of days for clarity,” said K. Hariprasad, President, Hospitals Division at Apollo. “We are in talks with Bharat Biotech and Serum Institute for supply of Covaxin and Covishield for off-the-shelf vaccination. There is nothing concrete on this front,” he added.

Foreign vaccines

On bringing foreign vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer, he said, “We are awaiting guidelines. Meanwhile, contacts are being made (with those firms). Nothing concrete as yet,” he said.

Vishal Bali, Chairman, Asia Healthcare Holdings, who formerly helmed the hospital networks of Wockhardt and Fortis, pointed out that the present status of vaccine stocks was not clear, and May could be a little haphazard. However, he added that since separate channels of State and private hospitals, with different price points, had been created, it should have different supply chains. It would defeat the purpose, if private hospitals were to continue to source from the government, he said.

CK Nageswaran, Facility Director at Chennai’s Fortis Malar Hospital, explains, “As of now, we are getting vaccines from the State government. Each vaccine is costing us ₹150 and we are charging patients ₹ 250.”

At Delhi’s St Stephens, a spokesperson said, they were awaiting clarity from the Government on vaccine procurement. But sources added, a delegation of major hospitals, including Max, Fortis, Medanta, St Stephens, Apollo and Sir Ganga Ram have approached the government for price negotiation with the vaccine makers.

S. Narayani, Zonal Director at Fortis Hospitals (Mumbai), said, they were readying the infrastructure “towards bringing the vaccine to your doorstep.” But while the infrastructure, logistics and manpower upskilling was being worked on, “we await clarity on availability, direct procurement and disbursement of vaccines.”she added.

In Mumbai, a hospital source indicated, they were required to return existing stock to the Government, on Friday, the eve of May 1, so the new batch can be dealt with at the revised prices.

Breach Candy Hospital Chief Executive N Santhanam said, presently they would still source from the State, even as they were in talks with vaccine-makers Serum, Bharat Biotech and Dr Reddy’s Laboratories for the Russian Sputnik V vaccine. He too indicated that pricing was not clear at the moment.

Also preparing the hospital for more people to get vaccinated is Dr Jigna Shrotriya, Deputy General Manager (Medical Services) at Global Hospitals (Mumbai). She expected the vaccines presently available in the hospital to be used up by tomorrow. “There is no clarity on the next stock supply, we are waiting for instructions,” she said, on the next course of action

(Inputs from Narayanan V, Chennai and Monika Yadav, Delhi.)

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