The Centre on Tuesday told states and Union Territories that all private hospitals, including those that are not empanelled under government health schemes, can be utilised for administering coronavirus vaccines.

The statement came a day after India began the second phase of its coronavirus vaccination drive. In this phase, people above 60 years of age, and those who are 45 or more and suffering from comorbidities, are now eligible for the vaccinations. This is free at government facilities, while private centres are offering it at a capped price of Rs 250 per dose.

Around 10,000 private hospitals under Ayushman Bharat, more than 600 hospitals under the Central Government Health Scheme, and other private hospitals enrolled under state schemes were designated as vaccination centres.

“Private hospitals not empanelled under the above mentioned three categories have also been permitted to operate as CVCs [Covid-19 Vaccination Centres] if they have adequate number of vaccinators, adequate space for observation of the vaccinated, adequate cold chain arrangement and adequate arrangement for management of AEFI [adverse event following immunisation],” the health ministry said in a statement. “States/UTs can proactively make efforts to use these private hospitals as CVCs.”

The ministry also asked the states to ensure that there is adequate allocation of vaccines to all hospitals operating as vaccination centres. “It was reiterated that there is no shortage of Covid-19 vaccines, hence adequate vaccine doses should be allocated to the CVCs,” the statement said.

At a meeting chaired by Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan with chief secretaries, principal secretaries and health secretaries of all states and Union Territories, the health ministry again said that there was no shortage of coronavirus vaccines. The ministry asked the states and Union Territories to not “store, reserve, conserve or create a buffer stock” of the doses. It said that the central government will provide them with the required vaccine doses.

It also asked private vaccination centres to ensure that there is a crowd management protocol in place, along with facilities for seating and water. “They [the vaccination centres] should also ensure adherence of Covid-appropriate behaviour among the citizen beneficiaries,” the statement said. “State and district administration would proactively facilitate this.”

The government also said that the private hospitals, in consultation with states or the administration of the Union Territories, should open the vaccination slots for 15 days to a month.

Earlier on Tuesday, Bhushan had said that the government has done away with the 9 am to 5 pm vaccination session timeslot, according to The Indian Express. “If the hospital has the capacity, the system [Co-Win 2.0] permits the hospital to do vaccinations even after 5 pm,” he said. “They need to do it in consultation with state governments.”

During the review meeting with the states, the ministry also the government’s Co-Win 2.0 portal can be scaled up to accommodate all potential and eligible citizen beneficiaries.

India has so far vaccinated 1,56,20,749 beneficiaries, including 7,68,730 being inoculated on Tuesday, according to the Union health ministry. As of 1 pm on Tuesday, 2,08,791 people were vaccinated in the second phase of the vaccination programme. About 50 lakh people have registered for the vaccination drive till March 2.