Private hospitals in Mumbai could not utilise more than 13 lakh of the over 22 lakh coronavirus vaccine doses till last week that they had procured one month earlier, The Indian Express reported on Friday.

This occurred despite the fact that vaccination centres run by the city’s civic body Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation had to be shut for a day on June 3 due to vaccine shortages, giving rise to questions of inequity in supply of vaccines.

The Maharashtra government had procured 25.10 lakh doses of vaccines in May, while private hospitals in the state had bought 32.38 lakh of them. The number of vaccines doses bought by private hospitals in Maharashtra was the highest among all states, according to The Indian Express.

The gap between vaccines available at government and private inoculation centres was even wider in Mumbai. The state government had allocated 5.23 lakh doses to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, while private hospitals in the city had procured over four times more – 22.37 lakh doses.

For the month of May, procurement was done under the Centre’s vaccination policy, implemented from May 1, where state governments and private hospitals could buy 25% each of the total production of vaccine manufacturers. In April, when private facilities could not buy directly from vaccine companies, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation had received a much higher quantity – 9.47 lakh doses – from the state, The Indian Express reported.

On June 7, the Centre once again changed the vaccination policy under which the central government will now procure 25% of the states’ quota too. The 25% designated for the private hospitals, however, still remains.

According to data from the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, private hospitals administered only 3.34 lakh doses in Mumbai between May 1 and June 2. Thus, the private facilities could utilise only 14.93% of their total stock.

The data, however, comes with a caveat as Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital in the city, which procured 9.89 lakh doses, or nearly 44% of the total stock bought by all private hospitals in Mumbai, administered doses to the workforce of companies in cities across India, according to The Indian Express.

Speaking to the newspaper, an official of the Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital said that they administered 10,000-15,000 doses every day. Assuming that the hopsitals gave 15,000 jabs for the 31-day period in question, a total of 4.65 lakh shots were given. In addition, private facilities in satellite cities Thane and Navi Mumbai gave 1.34 lakh jabs in May, according to The Indian Express.

Addition of the 4.65 lakh doses administered by HN Reliance, 1.34 lakh in Thane and Navi Mumbai, and 3.34 lakh doses recorded by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, it turns out that a total of 9.33 lakh shots were given by all private hospitals in Mumbai, Thane and Navi Mumbai.

This means that 13.04 lakh doses of the total 22.37 lakh doses procured by private hospitals remained unutilised.

An official of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation told The Indian Express that the civic body raised the matter of “disproportional availability” of vaccines in a meeting with the state government this week.

On Thursday, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan had also said that the participation of the private sector in the Covid-19 vaccination drive was “less than adequate”.

However, private hospitals have defended their procurement policy saying that buying a larger stock is cost-effective, saves logistics, and allows better planning for corporate and residential immunisation, The Indian Express reported.

“It takes time to streamline and enhance capacity,” Joy Chakraborty, the Chief Operating Officer at Mumbai’s PD Hinduja Hospital, told the newspaper. “Private hospitals were shut for several days in May waiting for vaccine supply, but BMC shut its centres only a few times over the last two months.”

He said the PD Hinduja Hospital procured 96,000 doses and is estimated to be left with about 70,000 doses on June 2.

Santosh Shetty, Chief Executive Officer of the Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital said they were buying whatever they could due to lack of clarity on future supplies. The hospital bought 1 lakh doses, and was left with 50,000 doses on June 2.

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