People in Tamil Nadu can now get themselves vaccinated against COVID-19 at private hospitals for free as the state government has extended its free vaccination drive and asked corporates to help with the funds under the corporate social responsibility initiatives.
After several unsuccessful attempts at government health centres over the last week, Vijay, a Chennai resident who works in the hotel industry, was able to get a vaccine shot for free at Chennai's Rela Hospital. Since he cannot afford the paid vaccination facility at private hospitals, Mr Vijay said: "This is a good system at private hospitals. There are many who have not taken even their first dose."
The state government's strategy aims to tap the under-utilised vaccines with private hospitals or what they can avail. Private hospitals get 25 per cent of vaccines but till now, they have utilised only 5 per cent in Tamil Nadu.
The vaccines are available free of cost to the public in government hospitals, which often run dry due to short supply and high demand.
The centre has been bearing the costs for procuring 75 per of the vaccines for all states and Union Territories under the new phase of vaccination since June 21, while the balance 25 per cent are allotted to private health care providers.
The state has invited corporates to fund private hospitals through their corporate social responsibility (CSR) while private hospitals can also be a part of this drive by rolling out their own CSR initiatives, the government said.
The current practice of private hospitals providing vaccines at a price would also continue, along with the free vaccination drive.
Dr Ilankumaran Kaliamoorthy, CEO of Rela Hospital, said: "Many multi-national companies are tying up with us so we go to their places to vaccinate their employees. 80 per cent of healthcare industry is full of private hospitals. I am sure the response will be very good. Its a good system by the Tamil Nadu government."
Tamil Nadu requires around 12 crore doses to inoculate more than 6 crore people over the age of 18 in the state. Till now, the state has administered only 2 crore doses. The new scheme is expected to help the state get at least 7 lakh additional doses this month.
Tamil Nadu health secretary Dr J Radhakrishnan said: "We have already received commitments for Rs 5 crore worth of vaccines. Corporates can identify their own beneficiary groups like teachers or their own workers. It's a win-win situation. We want to utilise the entire 25 per cent of vaccine supply for private hospitals."
Meanwhile, getting additional allocation of vaccines from the centre continues to be a challenge. The ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) party had earlier tacitly alleged that the BJP-ruled states with lesser population get more allocation from the centre. The state had asked for a special allocation of one crore doses for "correcting the imbalance".
Till now, only 6 per cent of Tamil Nadu's six crore population in the 18 plus age group has taken both the doses as the state explores new ways to increase its vaccination coverage before the third coronavirus wave hits.
Tamil Nadu on Monday recorded 1,785 new COVID-19 cases, taking the state's caseload to 25,50,282, while the death count from the virus rose to 33,937 with 26 new fatalities.