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Despite free vax, demand intact for paid jabs

Poor and below middle-class people eligible for second dose going to private hospitals for inoculation

Representational Image

Representational Image

Hyderabad: UNABLE to get a free slot across various online platforms, many people are booking paid vaccines against Covid-19. Despite centralised free vaccination policy, poor and below middle-class individuals are also shelling out around Rs 3,000 each for two doses. Those who walk into the vaccination centres without registration have to return disheartened due to the shortage of jabs.

Inadequate vaccine shots at State vaccination centres led to the increased demand for paid jabs. The scarcity of vaccines is much higher in case of second dose. Those, who have received the first dose a couple of months ago, have been waiting eagerly for the final dose. Due to lack of sufficient stock in government centres, it has become a necessity for them to get vaccinated at private hospitals.

As per the recommendations of NEGVAC (National Empowered Group on Vaccine Administration against Covid-19), there must be a gap of 6-8 weeks between first and second doses of the vaccine for the best protection against coronavirus. Afraid of missing the vaccine schedule, persons eligible for the second dose have been knocking at the doors of private hospitals for inoculation.

Sputnik V has the highest demand in the market because of its high efficacy rate. It is the first vaccine to be registered against Covid-19 in the world, with an efficacy of 91.6 per cent against the virus. As the Russian vaccine requires a temperature range of minus -18 degrees Celsius, it is being administered only at nine private hospitals in Hyderabad across Telangana.

AstraZeneca's Covishield shows 81.3 per cent efficacy and Bharat Biotech's Covaxin has 77.8 per cent efficacy. Sputnik V is completely a paid vaccine administered with a gap of 21 days between first and second doses. Covaxin is given with 28-day gap and Covishield with 84-day gap between two doses. In most of the State vaccination centres, Covishield is only available.

Durga Rao, a resident of Ramnagar, said: "On May 30, I and my wife took the first dose of Covishield free of cost at a primary healthcare centre near our home. Second shot of the vaccine was due from August 21. As we couldn't find a free slot at any State vaccination site in our area, we had to visit a private centre for the final dose."

Though the government authorities reiterate continuous free supply of vaccines, the vaccination centres are administering only limited doses a day. According to the revised guidelines of the apex body NEGVAC, all vaccination centers shall provide onsite registration facility, but the private hospitals are still insisting for online registration.

The private hospitals also restricted the number of doses per day. "We have enough stocks of the vaccine and are administering an average of 2,000 doses a day based on the demand. However, we have the capacity to administer 10 times these volumes depending on the requirement," said Dr K Hari Prasad, President, Apollo Group of Hospitals.

Out of 554 vaccination sites in Telangana, 364 are government centres while 181 are private ones. As many as 57,289 people were administered vaccine on Tuesday alone. With this, 1.90 crore persons across the State have been vaccinated so far. Among them, 1.39 crore received the first dose of vaccine and 51 lakh were the recipients of second dose.

Telangana Director of Public Health G Srinivas Rao said: "There is no dearth of vaccines in the State. Other than walk-in vaccinations, our teams are going door-to-door to a number of houses each day to administer vaccines. While the total vaccination count is around two lakh a day in the State, the paid doses are about 5,000 a day, Hyderabad contributing 50 per cent of that."

N Sharath Chowdary
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