New Delhi: With Covid numbers plateauing and pressure mounting to reopen schools — a Parliamentary standing committee last week pointed out the hazards of prolonged school closure — the Modi government is looking at the private sector to pitch in for the vaccination of teachers.
In a meeting last week with representatives of private hospitals, NITI Aayog member (health) Dr V.K. Paul asked them to explore the option of securing funds from private sector companies under the corporate social responsibility (CSR) head to carry out vaccinations of teachers.
“We had a meeting with Dr Paul on Friday to discuss the recommendations of the National Health Conclave. We also discussed the issue of vaccinations in the private sector,” Dr Girdhar Gyani, director-general of the Association of Healthcare Providers of India (AHPI), told ThePrint.
“In the end, Dr Paul mentioned that so far just about 50 per cent of the 1.5 crore teachers in the country have been vaccinated. He urged us to look at CSR funds from the private sector to complete the vaccinations ahead of school reopening. We told him that we would talk to companies like Amazon etc to complete the work.”
ThePrint also reached Dr Paul for a comment over the phone and WhatsApp, but there was no response till the publishing of this report.
The meeting comes amid growing pressure on the government to reopen schools. In its report tabled in Parliament last week, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Education has noted that the “hazards of not reopening schools are too serious to be ignored”.
“The closure of schools for over a year has had a deep impact on the wellbeing of students, especially their mental health. The hazards of not opening the schools are too serious to be ignored,” the report reads.
“The confinement of young children within the four walls of the house, being unable to attend school, has altered the relationship between the parent and the children adversely. The closure of schools has impacted the social fabric of the family in a negative manner leading to early/child marriage and increased involvement of children in household chores.”
Discussions held on vaccination pace
In the meeting with private hospitals, the NITI Aayog member also discussed the pace of vaccination in private hospitals.
At a Covid briefing last week, Dr Paul, while replying to a question, had categorically said that there is no rethink on reserving 25 per cent of vaccine supplies for private hospitals.
A day later, Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya told Rajya Sabha that there is no need to change the policy as a decision has already been taken to take away vaccines unused in the private sector and administer them in government hospitals.
“I informed Dr Paul that the private hospital numbers have gotten better post 15 July as many states had not even appointed the nodal persons for procurement through CoWin,” Dr Gyani said.
“That has happened now and also the procurement norms have been eased. Earlier, the minimum order for Covishield was 3,000 doses but now that has been reduced to 600. For Covaxin, it is 100 doses. If a hospital is procuring 6,000 doses then they can also procure directly from the company.”
The meeting also discussed the problem of vaccine hesitancy, especially in smaller towns and private hospital representatives urged the government to address the issue through a concerted campaign so that vaccination numbers can be pushed up quickly.
They also said that in many parts of the country, the pricing in the private sector remains a problem for many people, especially in Tier 2 and 3 cities.
Paul commended the work being done by AHPI on the training of doctors and other healthcare workers in primary health centres, in line with recommendations of the National Health Conclave 2021 on upscaling the existing mental healthcare capacity.
(Edited by Arun Prashanth)