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Senior citizens and people above 45 years of age with comorbidities can get covid-19 vaccination at 10,000 government facilities and more than 20,000 private hospitals from 1 March, the government announced on Wednesday.

“The covid vaccine will be given free of cost to all persons above 60 and those above 45 years of age but having a comorbid condition at 10,000 government vaccination centres," Union information and broadcasting minister Prakash Javadekar said at a news briefing.

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They can also get the vaccine at more than 20,000 private vaccination centres but will have to pay a fee for that, Javadekar said. The fee will be decided by the health ministry in 3-4 days. The private sector will charge up to 100, according to health ministry officials.

The implementation of the nationwide covid vaccination programme would be under the public-private partnership (PPP) model, the officials said. The government will buy vaccines from manufacturers and administer them through the private sector using their personnel and infrastructure. Once the private sale of covid vaccines starts, the cost may vary from 300 to 400 per dose, they said.

Currently, more than 10,000 hospitals are being used for the administration of covid vaccines, of which at least 2,000 are from the private sector. In the coming days, more private hospitals will be utilized to increase vaccination coverage, health secretary Rajesh Bhushan said.

Stakeholders from the private sector shared a plan with the government last week for their involvement in the programme. “India has more than 3,000 private hospitals of more than 100-bed capacity, which will have the requisite infrastructure and can vaccinate between 100 and 500 persons per day. There are about 25,000 hospitals with bed sizes between 30 and 100. At least 50% of these can be identified as vaccine delivery centres. These hospitals, along with government facilities, will be able to boost the vaccination drive," said Girdhar J. Gyani, director general, Association of Healthcare Providers (India) (AHPI), which has recently submitted a proposal to the health ministry.

Initially, the government may identify 100+ bedded private hospitals for vaccination.

“We have also shared the module we have prepared for comprehensive training of vaccinators (based on what has been done in government hospitals) with the health ministry. This can be used in hybrid mode, theory plus practical, to train a large number of vaccinators. Considering Europe and Australia are seeing a fresh surge, India needs to fast-track the vaccination drive. Involving the private sector will help fast-track the drive," Gyani said.

The private sector has shown its willingness and intent to support the government and augment its capacity across the value chain of covid-19 vaccine distribution and administration. “We await clarity from the government on how to take this forward in terms of required manpower and centres. We have the capability to ramp up our operations to provide coverage to a large spread of population," said Dr Sandeep Budhiraja, group medical director, Max Healthcare.

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