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Ians

New Delhi: Seventy-five percent of citizens are in favour of the government opening up the vaccination process for all above 18 by permitting private labs and hospitals to vaccinate after-hours via appointment and walk-in, as per a survey by LocalCircles.

The survey found that false certification to people above 45 as co-morbid or qualifying individuals as healthcare or frontline workers is being reported as malpractice.

Thirty percent of citizens say they observed or experienced some irregularities on the ground in regard to adherence to norms to qualify for vaccination.

Since the vaccination drive began for citizens above the age of 60 or those above 45 with co-morbidities, there has been an increase in citizen feedback on LocalCircles where people have described how these norms are allegedly getting violated to make vaccination happen for those who don't necessarily qualify.

In the earlier phase of vaccinating healthcare workers, a few people had reported how some of the family members of healthcare professionals who weren't necessarily health care workers were also able to receive the Covid-19 vaccine dose.

It is to be noted that a vial of Covid-19 vaccine once opened for inoculation needs to be fully used within 4 hours, else the remaining doses go waste. For Covishield, each 5ml vial of the vaccine has 10 doses in total and for Covaxin, it is 10ml and 20 doses per vial. And, once opened, all the doses have to be consumed within 4 hours.

Citizens report that in cases where all doses aren't consumed, vaccine administrators are calling up their friends or families and are inoculating them with the remaining doses. Per reports, in such cases, they are being falsely qualified as health or a frontline worker just to fit the criteria. Some people have also reported that people who do not have a co-morbidity are going to doctors and are taking a fake co-morbidity certificate to fit the criteria for inoculation.

The survey received approximately 19,000 responses from citizens located in 281 districts of India. 68 percent of the respondents were men while 32 percent were women.

Thirty percent of citizens say some healthcare professionals are influencing or falsely-certifying to qualify people as co-morbid or health or frontline workers.

The question in the survey that sought to understand from citizens if they observed or experienced any irregularities in regards to Covid-19 vaccine administration so far, 70 percent of citizens said they did not experience or observed any irregularities, or don't have any experience with the vaccine.

There were, however, 15 percent of citizens saying they observed "(1) influencing or certification by healthcare professionals to qualify someone as co-morbid or as a health or frontline worker", 3 percent said "(2) overcharging to qualify someone as co-morbid or as a health or frontline worker", and 5 percent said, "(3) administration of leftover doses to those using influence or providing monetary gratification". Breaking down the poll, 3 percent observed both "1 & 2" irregularities from the aforementioned options. 2 percent said "1 & 3", and another 2 percent observed all three irregularities from the options. The question in the poll received 10,277 responses.

Of the citizens who experienced or observed irregularities with the COVID-19 vaccine administration process, 73% said some healthcare professionals are influencing or falsely certifying to qualify people as co-morbid, health or frontline workers.

Alternatively, if we were to separately look into the percentage of citizens who observed or experienced irregularities with the vaccine administration process for the magnitude of different types of irregularities, 50 percent said "(1) influencing or certification by healthcare professionals to qualify someone as co-morbid or as a health or frontline worker", 10 percent said "(2) overcharging to qualify someone as co-morbid or as a health or frontline worker", and 17% said "(3) administration of leftover doses to those using influence or providing monetary gratification". Breaking down the poll, 10 percent observed both "1 & 2" irregularities from the aforementioned options. 6 percent said "1 & 3", and 7 percent observed all three irregularities from the options.

The findings indicated that citizens who experienced or observed irregularities with the Covid-19 vaccine administration process, 73 percent said some healthcare professionals are influencing or falsely certifying to qualify people as co-morbid, health or frontline workers.

Seventy-five percent of citizens in favour of the Government opening vaccination for all above 18 by permitting private labs & hospitals to vaccinate post 6 p.m. for slightly extra charges.

It is to be noted that wastage of the Covid-19 vaccine has shot-up since its inoculation started on January 16, 2021. In Jaipur, for instance, 1.63 lakh covid vaccine doses have gone wastage till March 8. Similarly, in Maharashtra, vaccine wastage is at 3.2 percent as of March 14. According to a few citizens, the increase in wastage of COVID-19 vaccines is a problem that must be tackled with optimization and scheduling algorithms. Some citizens have suggested a different approach. Per their solution, since wastage is to be minimized and there are plenty of vaccine doses available and more getting ready each day just with Serum Insititute's Covishield and Bharat Biotech's Covaxin, the Government should open vaccination on a walk-in and appointment basis at private hospitals and labs (those willing) after 6 p.m. for slightly extra charges.

This according to people will lead to faster vaccination of the population and put an end to the malpractices reported. The slightly higher charges will cover healthcare staff compensation for working after hours. Potentially, even a percentage of those doses going waste could be reduced according to people.

It is worth a mention here that in the LocalCircles poll on what people were willing to pay for two vaccine doses of Covid-19, majority were ok with a price below Rs 600. Hence a price like Rs 600 could be a fair price for after-hours vaccination at a private facility while they would continue charging Rs 500 during regular working hours.

In summary, though only 30% of citizens have flagged irregularities by healthcare professionals influencing or falsely-certifying to qualify people as co-morbid or health or frontline workers, it is critical for the Government, along with the hospital administrators to plug the gaps outlined in the report so that Covid-19 doses are inoculated to the right people, and concomitantly reduce vaccine wastage.

As suggested by experts vis-a-vis citizens on the LocalCircles platform, the Government should consider opening vaccination (appointment and walk-in) for all above 18 in after-hours via private hospitals and labs for slightly higher charges. This suggestion has the support of the collective if one were to go by the findings of the poll in which 75% of citizens support such an initiative as it would lead to a higher percentage of the Indian population getting vaccinated faster.

More vaccinations will help India in reaching herd immunity faster as well as safety for all those children who cannot be vaccinated because of the minimum age criteria.

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