NATHEALTH calls for scaling up COVID vaccination drive


NATHEALTH-Healthcare Federation of India, an apex body representing the ecosystem of private healthcare sector, has submitted a set of recommendations to Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and NITI Aayog on the urgent need to scale up the vaccination drive by including private diagnostics labs and home care providers in the inoculation process. The recommendations also include setting up of vaccination centres in RWAs, malls, schools, airports, and large corporations with space and staff facilities. These steps will not only accelerate vaccination numbers at the community level but will also play a pivotal role to stem rising cases of COVID-19 in India, effectively scaling up numbers and expanding coverage in a short span of time.

As per a note from the association, in the representation to the Health Ministry, NATHEALTH has suggested involving other healthcare providers with skilled medical workforce to ramp up to the vaccination drive.

Some of the key suggestions submitted along with the rationale to the Government are:

  • Involving certified, private diagnostic organisations – this can increase coverage and ensure that the general public has quick access to vaccination, especially those in the high-risk category. Large private labs already have a ready network of labs spread across India in Tier 1, 2 and semi-urban areas, along with an established cold-chain network supported by an army of trained workforce.
  • Phlebotomists at accredited laboratory chains are well-trained to proficiently inoculate the population with utmost compliance under the supervision of MBBS doctors. As per the official guidelines, private labs can easily create dedicated sections for registration verification vaccination and observation, if given a chance to participate in the vaccine administration drive.
  • Temporary vaccine centres can be set up in schools, malls, hotels/dormitories, airports, and large corporate houses can be created to conduct the inoculation drive as per the SOPs and operational guidelines of Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India, which can facilitate vaccine storage, handling, administration and documentation. The entire process will be similar to that being followed at hospitals, including registration on CoWIN, utilisation of only those nurses who have been specifically trained on COVID19 vaccination administration, infection control protocols and standards.
  • Involving more private home healthcare industry players in order to reduce the cost of care for patients and the burden on the stretched hospitals system – Home healthcare industry has a huge potential in preventing the spread of the COVID infection in current times of surge.
  • Creation of satellite, temporary off-site community vaccination clinics/centres managed by home healthcare providers – These centres outside of hospitals can be set up in community centres, malls, colleges, schools, stadiums, RWAs, offices of large corporations and others.

Dr Harsh Mahajan President, NATHEALTH and Founder and Chief Radiologist, Mahajan Imaging said, “In order to win the battle against COVID, India’s strategy must continuously evolve in the fields of vaccination, diagnostics, contact tracing, tracking, sero-surveillance, data analysis, and communication advocacy to overcome the challenges in a dynamic COVID environment. India has 2000 labs for COVID testing now and keeping in mind the unprecedented second wave of the pandemic, we must focus on increasing the coverage of the vaccination drive and continue large scale testing in the states which are reporting high number of cases. We can utilise the infrastructure built by private diagnostics labs in the 1st wave of the pandemic. The phlebotomists at any accredited diagnostic laboratory chain are well-trained to inoculate the population with utmost compliance under the supervision of MBBS doctors. Home healthcare service providers and certified diagnostic labs in India have the required infrastructure and trained medical professionals to vaccinate. This will definitely help increase the coverage of the vaccination drive effectively in tier 2 and tier 3 geographies.”

Dr Mahajan reminded that the private sector has supported the Government in the fight against the pandemic and these recommendations submitted by NATHEALTH is an effort to further lend active support to the Government.

He further mentioned that some hospitals are back to their pre-COVID levels of occupancy and also focusing on non-COVID patients. As cases surge in some pockets of India, many hospitals have also started reserving spaces and beds for COVID testing treatment. In addition, there is a need to give flexibility and convenience of access to vaccines for working professionals and dispel the fear of visiting hospitals for the elderly.

The release quotes Dr Mahajan as saying“If India wants to achieve a milestone by inoculating the entire population by the end of this year, the Government should consider bringing in additional service providers in the health care Industry as it played a vital role in the initial phase of COVID response by facilitating the Home Isolation /remote home monitoring program for the mildly symptomatic COVID patients across many states following the guidelines laid down by MOHFW. This will help in reducing the cost of care for patients and reduce the burden on the stretched hospitals system. The home healthcare industry and diagnostics sector with other service providers like pharmacies are looking forward to collaborate with the Government to accelerate their vaccination program at the community level.”

As the number of COVID cases rise in India and touched the ever-highest mark of 1 lakh cases in a single day, there is a dire need to boost the infrastructure both in the private and public facilities to handle the emerging second wave of the COVID 19 pandemic. Private sector has been working shoulder to shoulder with the Government to improve testing, expand capacity, testing innovative solution through clinical trials and also reduce the load on hospitals through remote monitoring & home management of mild risk cases. A continuous collaborative approach is critical now when there is an urgent need for all the stakeholders to work in unison, concludes the release.

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