Close to half of all COVID-19 jabs in Bengaluru were given in private hospitals

TNM had recently reported that vaccination for the 18-44 age group for non-priority groups is yet to begin at government centres in the city.
A woman getting COVID-19 vaccine
A woman getting COVID-19 vaccine

About half of all COVID-19 vaccinations in Bengaluru city have happened through private hospitals, according to data maintained by the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike. Till July 9, a total of 59.7 lakh (approximately) doses of vaccines have been administered in Bengaluru leading to a 70+% coverage of the eligible population. And out of these, 27.03 lakh (45%) jabs were given through the private set up, while the 32.7 lakh doses were given in government centres, a top BBMP official told TNM. Currently, Union government protocols say that 75% of all vaccines in a state will be provided by the Union government for free, while 25% of the vaccines can be given by private players. But just like any other state, most private hospitals are located in big cities and their surroundings. Similar situations of disproportionate availability of vaccines in favour of private facilities in Delhi and Mumbai have also come to light.

Currently, Bengaluru is second only to New Delhi in terms of vaccine doses delivered. While Mumbai is a close third as of Saturday (July 10), Kolkata and Chennai are in distant fourth and fifth places. It is to be noted that in the above-stated figures, the vaccination numbers of areas surrounding Bangalore Urban districts have been counted under Bengaluru numbers. 

TNM has recently reported that vaccination for the 18-44 age group for non-priority groups is yet to begin at government centres in the city. This has meant only those who can pay private hospital prices can get the jab, leading to a situation of asymmetry in access. 

Speaking to TNM, Dr Sylvia Karpagam, a public health researcher in Karnataka, said this current disparity in access to vaccines is just an extension of the pro-elite policies adopted since the onset of the pandemic. “Among the experts sitting in decision making bodies, there are people from the private sector who may be unaware about the struggles of people nor do they care. So many decisions are being made keeping in mind the interest of the corporations,” she said. She added, “The vaccination decision is just an extension of the same where the middle class and rich who can influence decision making are happy with this as they consider government hospitals dirty and don't want to rub shoulders with the ‘poor people’. The irony is that disease was brought in by international flyers.”

Akhila Vasan of Karnataka Janarogya Chaluvali, an organisation of health activists, had earlier petitioned the High Court on this issue. Speaking to TNM, she had said the policy of the Union government with respect to differential pricing of vaccines had led to a situation where those who don’t have money can’t get the vaccine, against the erstwhile policy of universal immunisation. In the context of this situation, the Karnataka High Court had fixed a cap of 25% on vaccines distributed by private hospitals.

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