The haves vs have-nots divide has widened during the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccines are the most visible sign of this. The lack of access to COVID-19 vaccines continues in India, even as positive cases in states like Kerala and Maharashtra show alarming single day spurts. The third wave is inevitable and indeed some districts and states could already be part of this wave.
Even as health ministry data puts India’s cumulative COVID-19 vaccination coverage at over 45.6 crore, only about 10 per cent of India’s adult population (above 18 years) of 94 crore is fully vaccinated.
Again, health ministry data reveals that as of July 30, more than 48.03 crore (48,03,97,080) vaccine doses have been provided to States/UTs, through all sources and a further 71,16,720 doses are in the pipeline. Of this, the total consumption including wastages is 45,27,93,441 doses. More than 2.92 crore balance and unutilised COVID vaccine doses were available with the States/UTs and private hospitals to be administered.
Even though 25 per cent of vaccine production is reserved for private hospitals, according to a reply by Congress Rajya Sabha MP Mallikarjun Kharge on July 20, as per health ministry data, from May 1 to July 15, 2021, just about seven per cent of COVID vaccinations were recorded from private centres. The inference is that vaccines are available in the private sector but there are no takers beyond a certain number due to the price.
While the government is tapping the corporate sector to deploy their CSR funds to fund vaccinations of their employees and communities around their establishments through private health centres, this underlines the haves vs have-nots divide.
A PIL filed by the Jan Swasthya Abhiyan (JSA) alleges that just 30 per cent of patients in India get treated in government/public health centres. The PIL points out that since implementation of the Clinical Establishments Act has been patchy, the majority 70 per cent of patients approaching the private sector is being over-charged. The Supreme Court has issued a notice to the Centre seeking a response on JSA’s PIL for healthcare mismanagement.
The August edition of Express Healthcare, timed with our 74th Independence Day, focuses on how IT enabled systems are empowering healthcare personnel to do more with less. For instance, remote monitoring technologies allow the almost immediate ramping up of COVID ICU bed strength, without endangering the lives of ICU staff. Similarly, IoTm ML, AI are harnessing the data from such systems to aid clinicians make more informed decisions. But will these systems and technologies create a more equitable and accessible healthcare facilities to all patients in Independent India? Or will India @ 75 still been a nation crippled by deepening fault lines? And will our healthcare sector rise to the challenge of make healthcare more affordable for all Indians? As we mark our 74th Independence Day, let us reflect on reducing these fault lines. Because a virus has once again proved that in health, a virus can be a great leveller. No one is safe until everyone is safe is the bottom-line. (Link to digital edition:https://www.expresshealthcare.in/digital-issue/express-healthcare-august-2021/430601/)