In almost 80% of districts, the public sector has provided over 95% of all vaccine doses so far. The private sector’s share is less than even 1% in half the districts, especially in predominantly rural areas and in the Northeast.
The highest shares of private hospitals in vaccination are, not surprisingly, in urban mega sprawls like Bengaluru, Delhi, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai with the Bengaluru municipal corporation (BBMP) area recording the highest share of the private sector, 44%.
TOI downloaded data from the CoWin portal for over 1.6 lakh vaccination centres as of 7am on Sunday. The centres were then categorised into public and private and the data analysed to arrive at these numbers. The data is for all doses of vaccines administered from the start of the drive on January 16, about 20.8 crore doses, of which the private sector administered about 1.6 crore. Of these 1.6 lakh centres, we were unable to clearly categorise a little over 17,000. But these accounted for barely 0.4%, or 9 lakh, doses administered and so would not change the picture significantly.
The analysis raises questions about whether a 25% quota for the private sector is justified by actual performance. It also underlines that such a quota seems to be discriminating against semi-rural and rural populations since the private sector is almost entirely limited to urban settings and within them to the larger cities, one of the concerns flagged by the Supreme Court.
Among states and UTs, the highest private sector share in vaccination (21%) was in Delhi, followed by Chandigarh (15%), Telangana(14%), Maharashtra(13%), Tamil Nadu (12%) and Karnataka (12%). However, even in Delhi, there were districts like northeast where 99.85% of vaccinations have been done in government centres. Similarly, even in the most urbanised state of Tamil Nadu, there are districts like Kallaikurichi, with a population of about 14 lakh, where the private sector hardly exists in the vaccination landscape.
With rural India being home to over 65% of the country’s population, and hence being almost entirely dependent on the government for Covid vaccination, this raises the question of how giving the private sector such a big role is supposed to spur vaccination as argued by the Centre. In many ways, vaccines, which are said to reduce hospitalisation and severe disease, are even more necessary for the rural populace which has little or no access to health infrastructure and what there is of it is poor.