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New Delhi: Private sector can scale up India’s covid-19 vaccination drive five times in the next 45 days, but needs processes that are less cumbersome than currently followed, industry leaders Mint spoke to said. India, in 40 days, has vaccinated 1.23 crore healthcare and frontline workers. A speedier vaccination drive has become an imperative given that many Indian states are now witnessing a second wave.

“When the private sector gets extensively involved, we can ramp up the vaccination effort five to 10 times," Shobana Kamineni, vice chairperson of Apollo Hospitals Enterprise Limited, said. “We can do 50 million vaccinations in the next 45 days if the sites are ramped up and more people are encouraged to get vaccinated," she added.

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The Indian government, on Wednesday, announced it was opening up the drive by involving the private sector. Senior citizens and people above 45 years of age with comorbidities can get the jabs at 10,000 government facilities and more than 20,000 private hospitals from 1 March.

Apollo can provide 2,000 sites and has identified 6000-7000 people who can give the jabs, Kamineni said. However, the procedures followed right now can slow down the process. There is the Co-Win app as the tech backbone, several levels of checks, and the jabs have to be administered in a controlled environment, which is a hospital. “Many countries are doing vaccinations in car parks. If you have the guidelines, I don’t see why you can’t open up the drive in safe sites, not necessarily hospitals," Kamineni said.

The private sector, particularly, appears less confident when it comes to the Co-Win app, which is tasked with beneficiary registration at the moment. Reports from different cities have suggested sub-optimal performance with glitches ranging from duplication to missing names.

“We (CII) have offered the government help in scaling up the app," TV Narendran, CEO & MD of Tata Steel Limited and the president-designate of industry body CII, said. “Second, people should be allowed to use Aadhaar cards and get vaccinated — it is a government ID and it is in the system. That’s a way to scale up. Then, you don’t overload the Co-Win app with too many people trying to log on," he added.

Sudarshan Ballal, chairman of Manipal Health Enterprises Private Limited, is also batting for a simplified process. “Covid vaccination should be like any other intramuscular vaccination. The process should be as simple as a walk-in but since it is a new vaccine there should be a provision for people to wait for half an hour to make sure there is no reaction," he suggested. “If the process is made cumbersome with apps, too many entries etc., it will slow down the drive," he warned.

A slower vaccination drive could mean India will require newer vaccines as the virus might mutate.

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