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Saturday, May 15, 2021

Vaccination for 18-44 group only in private centres: BMC

It is unclear yet if the decision means that all people in the age group will have to pay for the vaccination. The state government may take a call in the regard at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

Written by Sanjana Bhalerao | Mumbai |
April 28, 2021 7:38:07 am
For now, only those in the 45 and above age group will be vaccinated at the 63 government and BMC-run centres, where the vaccine is free. (Representational/Express Photo by Pavan Khengre)

Inoculation against Covid-19 for the 18 to 44 age group will be carried out only at private vaccination centres in Mumbai, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) announced on Tuesday.

It is unclear yet if the decision means that all people in the age group will have to pay for the vaccination. The state government may take a call in the regard at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

For now, only those in the 45 and above age group will be vaccinated at the 63 government and BMC-run centres, where the vaccine is free.

Municipal Commissioner IS Chahal said the decision to separate the age groups has been taken to manage the crowds at the hospitals. “Given the increasing scope of vaccination and to ensure that there is no crowding and citizens are not inconvenienced, the decision has been taken to vaccinate those in the age group of 18-44 at private centres.”

The decision was taken at the meeting headed by the municipal commissioner on Tuesday.

The BMC said it was in touch with vaccine manufacturers to procure vaccine doses directly for the city. Chahal told The Indian Express: “BMC will manage (procurement of vaccines) for the private hospitals”.

But even as the BMC has given private hospitals the go-ahead for vaccination in the new age group, the centers are waiting for a word on vaccine supplies.

People in the know of the matter said it seems unlikely that the phase 3 of the national vaccination programme, targeted at the 18-44 age group, will begin in Mumbai as scheduled in view of the shortage of vaccine supplies. However, BMC has said vaccination will continue for those above 45 years of age uninterrupted, said officials.

In view of the surge in new Covid infections in the country, the Central government, on April 19, allowed opening up of the vaccination drive to include all adults from May 1.

Mumbai has an estimated 90 lakh people who fall in the 18-44 age bracket, and hence 1.80 crore doses will be required. The state government and the BMC on Monday had expressed uncertainty over rolling out the vaccination drive for the age group due to constraints in terms of vaccine availability.

According to guidelines from the central government, state governments have to make their own procurement arrangement to ensure vaccination stock to inoculate adults till 44 years of age.

The BMC said it is in touch with vaccine manufacturers to procure doses for the city. “Given the scale of the vaccination drive, adequate availability of vaccine stocks, procurement, transportation, distribution as well as increasing the number of vaccination centres are key issues. In this regard, the civic body has been following up with the government and vaccine companies. After the decision regarding the vaccination is taken in the state cabinet meeting to be held tomorrow (Wednesday), the civic body will decide on the next course of action,” said municipal commissioner Chahal.

With an aim to vaccinate one lakh citizens a day, the BMC said it was reaching out to vaccine manufacturing companies separately to get more stocks. “Efforts are being made to give priority to Mumbai. With the increase in the number of vaccination centres, a target has been set to vaccinate at least 1 lakh people every day in Mumbai,” said Chahal.

Joy Chakraborty, Chief Operating Officer (COO), Hinduja Hospital and chairman of Confederation of Indian Industry (CII)-Western Region, said, “The private hospitals are in touch with the government and they have been assured that some arrangement will be made under which the hospitals can get the vaccine from the government. Modalities will be clear in the next 24 hours.”

Private hospitals are looking at collective procurement through trade chambers such as CII, but have so far not received assurance of supply from any manufacturer.

“We reached out to manufacturers for Covid vaccines. They said they cannot supply before end of May. Until then, we will have to depend on government to supply if they agree. We won’t be able to start vaccination until we have supplies,” said Dr Santosh Shetty, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital.

Meanwhile, the civic body is preparing for a mass vaccination drive over the coming months with vaccination centres in each of the 227 electoral wards.

Chahal on Tuesday directed civic officials to identify locations for the additional centres in the city. These centres can be local health posts of the BMC, nursing homes, private hospitals and community/marriage/party halls. The centres will work in coordination with local health posts or hospitals where citizens will be rushed in case of any adverse effect.

Currently, there are 136 centres across the city. Out of these, 73 are in private hospitals. BMC is awaiting approval to start vaccination centres at 26 more private hospitals, taking the total number of private centres to 99.

BMC has also appealed to housing societies, corporate offices and private companies to tie up with private hospitals to get their employees/residents vaccinated. To further improve the distribution of vaccination doses in the city, BMC is going to set up a regional vaccine depot at Andheri, which will supply doses to the western suburbs. Currently, Kanjurmarg cold storage facility has the capacity to store 12 million vaccine doses. Additionally, there is a storage facility in Dadar for the island city and central Mumbai.

On Tuesday, 72,606 citizens received vaccine shots in Mumbai. The BMC has so far administered the first dose of vaccine to 19.20 lakh citizens and the second dose to 4.35 lakh citizens. Out of the 136 centres, 15 centres at private hospitals were shut due to the non-availability of vaccines.

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