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Private sector to play vital role in COVID-19 vaccination drive, says RS Sharma


The role of private sector would be vital as India scales up its COVID 19 vaccination drive, RS Sharma, the CEO of National Health Authority said on Sunday. Sharma said that while private hospitals are playing an important role in the vaccination programme, the private sector itself is poised to contribute actively to major healthcare-related initiatives including roadmap for Co-WIN platform, and National Digital Health Mission.

In the CoWIN system, even as the component pertaining to digitally-verifiable certificates will remain with the government, the rest three elements — registration, vaccination and timetable scheduling, support open Application Programming Interface (APIs), throwing up possibilities of a larger scope for private sector.

Sharma, who is also the Chairperson of Empowered Group on COVID 19 Vaccine Administration further said that digital certificate will become an “very important” travel document in future, including potentially for airlines.

“We envisage that digital certificate will become extremely important certificate in the sense that many…airlines will…maybe after a couple of months…say, we will require a person who has been finally vaccinated with two doses of vaccine…

“As you know, we are issuing a provisional certificate after the first dose and a final certificate after second dose…so it will become very important travel document, and once we align it to international standards, WHO standards, it will be a certificate which will be valid throughout the world and you can do that,” he said.

The digital certificate can be stored in a device, can be downloaded when required, is verifiable, tamper-proof and forgery-proof, making it an important artifact in digital world, he said.

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During a fireside chat at Amazon Smbhav event, Sharma spoke on ‘opportunities and challenges on the world’s largest COVID 19 immunisation programme’, as he outlined the crucial role of private sector in the scaling up of the vaccination drive and in other major programs such as National Digital Health Mission.

“I have been one of the proponents, who has been saying that unless we rope in private sector in a very significant way, we will not be able to scale up this programme and ultimately, private sector is an equal partner in this whole process,” he said.

He lauded the contribution of the private hospitals, and exhorted them to play “more and more active role” in the vaccination programme.

“…So, one is involving them as active partners into this process, which is basically what we have done is that all the private sector hospitals, Ayushman Bharat and any other hospitals the state government wants, they should also be roped in for vaccination, and they are playing an extremely important role. And in fact, we want them to play more and more active roll into the vaccination program,” he said.

Another area of focus, he said is the CoWIN platform, which has four major components — registration and appointment component; vaccination component (where the person coming for vaccination is verified and the vaccination event is recorded); the hospitals’ calendar of events; and the digital verifiable certificate which is being aligned to WHO standards.

While the certificate component will remain with the government, within the CoWIN system, he said “at some point in future we might decide hospitals can have their own appointment system. Hospitals can have their own vaccination system, so long as they give us information on real time basis, we will be fine with issuing the certificate”.

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He also said that the National Digital Health Mission talks about creating interoperable and inclusive digital health platform, and that private sector will play a key role in that.

“The base layer will be common digital infrastructure, identity, consent, digital certification, electronic KYC, payments. In the middle layer, you will have health professional registry, lab registry, verifiers and service providers, doctors registry. On top of it, you will have consumer-facing application which will access this middle layer, using base layer for various kinds of activities,” he said.

Articulating the broad contours of National Digital Health Mission, Sharma said that private sector will be consulted in an extensive manner in each of the issue “so it becomes win win for all”.

It will be a scalable platform, consent-based, would lower costs for patients and become “extremely powerful enabler” for getting digital health services, Sharma emphasised.



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