The COVID-19 vaccine is on top of everyone’s minds right now, including those operating in the domain of corporate social responsibility. Biocon chairperson Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw has asked the Indian government to allow corporates to utilise CSR funds to inoculate employees in their own organisations. Other industrialists are cheering Mazumdar-Shaw for making the request, while also seeking liberty to use the vaccine of their own choice to move things along smoothly.
While this request might sound self-indulgent on first sight, allowing companies to vaccine their staff might actually augment the government’s mass-inoculation strategy against coronavirus. It will lessen the burden on the central government. The private sector might prove handy in vaccine distribution and administration, given its vast reach across the country and expertise in supply of cold-chain products.
In fact, the latest joint report from FICCI and EY (Ernst & Young) also recommends that CSR funds of companies be deployed for vaccinating employees. The report titled ‘Protecting India: Public Private Partnership for Vaccinating Against COVID-19’ strongly suggests that the Modi government would benefit from letting companies utilise CSR funds to inoculate employees, while also supporting them for inoculation of the communities in their vicinity.
The Modi government has prioritised a total of 30 crore people from various walks of life to be inoculated by August 2021. This is a mammoth task that the public sector might not be equipped for, both in terms of manpower and medical centres.
The Union government could take a leaf out of the Spanish, French and American governments which have instructed their states and provinces to engage with private hospitals and general practitioners to supply clinical staff for administering the vaccine; this will reduce the dependence on cold storage near the population targetted. India can capitalize on the large base of private hospitals and nursing homes for inoculation. The government could rope in Rotary Club and Lions Clubs to dispense the vaccine in the cities. Private hospitals could lend their doctors and nurses for the deed. Volunteers at NGOs and charitable trusts could help out with data entry and documentation.
Largescale nonprofits such as Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Self Help Group members, ASHA and Anganwadi workers could create awareness about the vaccine among the rural population. UPS and FedEx have built massive freezer farms for storing vaccines in the US. Out here, e-commerce companies like Flipkart and Amazon India could ensure last-mile delivery. Indian tech companies could employ artificial intelligence to optimise COVID-19 vaccine delivery.
Public-private partnerships are the way to go for the Indian subcontinent if we are to become COVID-free in the near future.