The Indian corporate sector has asked the central government to allow them to use corporate social responsibility funds for vaccination programs that serve not only their employees but also the wider community.
The Companies Act requires companies of a certain size to spend 2% of the average annual profit in the last three years on activities defined by CSR provisions each year. This includes health care and preventive health care, as well as disaster management assistance, rehabilitation and reconstruction. Government in March 2020 circular allowed the use of CSR funds for activities related to Covid-19 – reported disaster. Although it allows a liberal interpretation of the activities involved, public vaccination programs are not explicitly prescribed.
So, the industrial lobby of CII asked the central government to include public vaccination in CSR at least this year, according to Vice President Sanjiv Bajaj. “We have to do what is right for employees and communities. It’s a practical way to spread vaccination, ”BloombergQuint said in an interaction. “So many of us have the means to do socially responsible business, we hope to be able to use that for the wider community as well.”
The government announced on April 19 opening the national Covid-19 vaccination program, allowing vaccine manufacturers to sell up to 50% to state governments and the open market. The remaining 50% will be for the central government. It also allowed vaccination for those 18 and older – the current age threshold is 45 and older. These changes take effect on May 1, but the accompanying rules have yet to be announced.
Bajaj said the business community is working with the government on rules that allow the import of vaccines – including those that can be imported, pricing and testing. “As an industry and as individual companies, we will see how to use our own strength to procure them.”
In addition, the government agreed to pay a Support of HRK 65 million Bharat Biotech Ltd., a manufacturer of Covaxin, to increase production from 12 million doses per month to 60-70 million by August. It has also approved advance payments of 4,500 kroner to the Serum Institute in India and Bharat Biotech, two local producers currently, to increase capacity, according to news.
“We will see an increase in capacity in India itself, which will be available to everyone – central, state governments and the private sector,” Bajaj said.
As for concerns that a private procurement permit could target vaccination to middle- and upper-middle-class citizens, Bajaj retorted that “every life vaccinated life is saved.” And this, private procurement, imports and increased addition of local capacity will have an additive effect, not a substitute effect.