Terming the recent drop in COVID-19 cases in the country as a “small window of opportunity”, AIIMS Director Randeep Guleria on Saturday called for a public-private partnership (PPP) for rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination programme at a large scale. Speaking at an AIMA event here, Guleria said the vaccine is the only weapon available to gain immunity and help reduce mortality rate due to the infectious disease.
He noted that there was a need to put healthcare at the centrestage and not consider it only as a service sector. “As far as vaccination is concerned there is still a lot to do and I think there has to be more private public partnership,” the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) director said.
There is a need to gradually start opening up in order to cover large number of people, he noted. “Vaccinating health care workers and front line workers is probably the easy part as far as Phase 1 is concerned as you know who needs to be vaccinated. The number is not that large. “Once you start the process to vaccinate 27 crore individuals, in that scenario we must have a robust programme in place where you have the list of people to be vaccinated,” Guleria said.
He further said: “We need to develop a mechanism where public and private sector actually start rolling out the vaccine at a large scale.” Guleria noted that there is an urgency to roll out the vaccine to a large number of people as there were dosages available due to some level of hesitancy in the healthcare and frontline workers. “I personally feel we have a window of opportunity available now because our cases are down, but this window can change anytime as we have seen in various parts of the world, specially with new variants coming up from different countries.
“So we should not lose this moment and try to vaccinate a large number of our citizens which will be able to provide some level of protection as far as COVID-19 is concerned,” he said. He added that the country still doesn’t have an effective anti viral drug so the only weapon that can be actually utilised is the vaccine.
“We have this small window before things may worsen and therefore we should take whatever vaccine we get and immunise ourselves so that we are able to decrease mortality and really have another spike in cases in the country,” Guleria emphasised. He noted that there has been lot of learning from the pandemic and there should be more emphasis on becoming self-reliant in the healthcare sector.
“What we realised during the initial days of pandemic is that you have to do with stuff which is available in your own country. We had shortage of PPEs, N95 masks and even ventilators because they were not available in the country. Even diagnostics became a challenge. So we have to become self-reliant in many ways and we have to put health at the centrestage,” he noted. Guleria said that health is an important factor as it affects all areas including economy and livelihood.
Rather than looking it only as a service sector, “healthcare should be looked as the centre which could be easily used to push the economy”, he said. He added that the country should not only aspire to become a medical research hub but also the patient care hub for the world. “I think India has the capacity to do that,” he said.
Earlier, speaking the event, Apollo Hospitals vice chairperson Preetha Reddy lauded the government efforts in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic in the country. She said the country has shown the way to the entire world in dealing with the infectious disease.