Vaccination camps: Some get scammed, others end up paying more

PT Jyothi Datta / G Naga Sridhar Mumbai | Updated on June 23, 2021

A file photo of Covid-19 vaccination camp for 18-45 age group in Chennai.   -  Bijoy Ghosh

Vaccines are allegedly being given at prices between ₹1,500 and ₹2,500

A recent scam at a housing society in Mumbai has revealed the perils that lurk in vaccine outreach programmes.

Close on its heels, a couple of more such incidents were reported of vaccination camps that were allegedly not linked to hospitals and did not give proper vaccine certificates. Besides such outright scams, reports from other parts of the country also revealed that some vaccination camps breeched the price-cap set by government for vaccinations done at a private hospital.

Vaccines are allegedly being given at prices between ₹1,500 and ₹2,500, says an industry insider.

Legitimate initiatives

But experts caution that a crime, which is what the scam vaccination camp is, should not deter the State and hospitals from undertaking legitimate outreach initiatives to make vaccines more accessible.

Dr Rahul Pandit, with the Supreme Court-appointed National Covid Taskforce, said unscrupulous elements who indulge in crime reflect a criminal thought-process, and law enforcement agencies need to deal with it. As a disease management professional, he said: “Outreach vaccination camps make vaccines accessible to more people. “It’s like voting, the law enforcement makes sure that everything goes right. It (a criminal act) should not derail the process of getting vaccines closer to more people,” says Pandit, who is also with the Maharashtra Covid-19 taskforce. He urged housing societies and resident welfare associations not to wait for someone to come and run a camp; instead, they should directly check with legitimate hospitals for an authentic camp to be conducted with the necessary back-up, he added.

Societies should also be alert that vaccination camps stick to the prices outlined by government, he said, adding that if money is taken out of the equation, it would the keep scamsters out.

On Tuesday, the Bombay High Court, too, asked the State government to formulate a policy to prevent such scams. Authorities have told hospitals to register with them before undertaking such camps.

But such vaccination camps are now seen in almost all metros. A representative with a corporate hospital that has a pan-India presence said camps are being organised in many places across the country with requests from private players and residential associations. In Hyderabad, for instance, camps are organised in several places almost every weekend.


Hospitals, not camps

Lack of clarity in the Centre’s price-cap communication on Covid-19 vaccines is resulting in some private hospitals charging a higher price per dose at special vaccination camps, said the representative. And the charges at camps were higher than the upper-cap by ₹250 to ₹500 in all major cities. The reason: logistics and staff expenses.

State authorities are permitting such camps for now. An official with the Andhra Pradesh government agreed: “There is a need for regulating prices. We are waiting for clarity from the Centre on permissible charges at these camps.”

When contacted by BusinessLine, a couple of corporate hospitals explained that the Centre’s circular meant only hospitals (and not special camps) when it capped prices at Private Covid Vaccination Centres. Interestingly, some hospitals have almost stopped vaccinations at their hospital premises and are directing people to the special camps instead, where higher charges can be collected.

And this is affecting the economically weaker sections who are going to the camps due to other problems at government vaccination centres.

Published on June 23, 2021

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