By Sanjeev Sharma
New Delhi, Feb 27 : A 63 per cent of those planning to take the Covid-19 vaccine in the next phase starting March 1 in private hospitals will not pay more than Rs 600 in total charges (two vaccine doses), as per a survey by LocalCircles.
The poll tried to understand the tentative perception as to how much are people willing to pay for two doses if any of their family members is eligible for the vaccine in this next phase. In response, 17 per cent said “up to Rs 200”, 22 per cent said “up to Rs 300”, 24 per cent said “up to Rs 600”, 16 per cent said “up to Rs 1000”, and 6 per cent said “above Rs 1000”, while 15 per cent couldn’t say.
The findings of the poll suggests that 63 per cent of those planning to take the Covid-19 vaccine in the next phase at a private hospital will not pay more than Rs 600 in total charges for two doses.
This indicates that the Government must make all attempts to ensure that the private hospitals get the vaccine at the lowest cost possible so they can deliver within this budget specified by the majority of citizens, as per the poll.
The survey results indicate that at this time 21 per cent citizens are ready to have their qualifying family members get the vaccine at a private hospital on payment basis and depending on how private hospital vaccination drive progresses, another 27 per cent who are currently undecided may opt to getting the vaccine via this channel.
Of the base that is looking at getting vaccinated at a private hospital 63 per cent of them are willing to pay Rs 600 or less for the vaccine (two doses) thereby defining a constraint for the Government as it negotiates final pricing with vaccine makers and private hospitals.
How such an MRP will be defined without a market use authorisation in place is something the Government will have to sort.
In addition to pricing, of great concern to many citizens is the issue of steps that are being undertaken to minimize vaccine black marketing, wastage and hospital management and doctor discretion on who gets the vaccine first.
The majority of 35 per cent of citizens said they “will be taking the vaccine at a government center”, while 21 per cent said they “will be taking it through a private hospital”. There were also 27 per cent of citizens who said they “will take but not sure how”. Further breaking down the poll, it has been learnt that 5 per cent of citizens “have already taken the vaccine”, while 6 per cent of citizens said “can’t say”, and another 6 per cent said they “do not have any member of the family meets the above criteria”.
So in summary, 21 per cent citizens are likely to have their family members taking the vaccine at a private hospital on payment basis. Also, its noteworthy that another 27 per cent citizens plan to take the vaccine but are currently unsure about whether they will go to a private hospital or a government center.
This indicates that if the private hospital vaccination drive takes off, many more could opt for it given a better experience. It is noteworthy that 75 per cent of outpatient care in India and 55 per cent of inpatient care in India is provided by the private healthcare sector. Though here the vaccine at a government center will be free, there is a general preference for private healthcare in India.
In a move that is expected to exceedingly amplify the Covid-19 vaccination drive in India, the Government of India has decided to allow close to 24,000 private hospitals across the country to start inoculation of Covishield and Covaxin vaccines in the next round of vaccination programme come March 1st 2021.
In the upcoming round, citizens above 60 years of age, and people above 45 years of age with co-morbidities will be eligible for the vaccination. The Government is said to be currently holding rounds of talks with the country’s private health sector to decide on a formulation of a concreate plan that will include the cost of Covid-19 vaccination from a private hospital, including a training module for vaccinators. Meanwhile, Government hospitals will continue the vaccination at no cost to citizens.
Taking cognizance from the recent development of permitting private hospitals to vaccinate senior citizens over 60 years and those with co-morbidities above 45 years, LocalCircles has conducted a survey to understand the percentage of people that would prefer getting the vaccine at a private hospital on payment basis and what is the maximum price citizens are willing to pay. It must be noted that a MRP cannot be published till market use authorisation is not issued for these vaccines. The survey received more that 16,000 responses from people located in 266 districts of India.
(Sanjeev Sharma can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)