Healthcare startups have brought a big revolution in better patient experience. The healthcare segment is booming with innovations solving challenges of accessibility, affordability, and availability in India. Medicircle is conducting an exclusive startup series to create awareness amongst people about the services that healthcare startups are providing and to inspire the youth by presenting success stories of such startups so that they can carve their own success roadmap. The aim is to also highlight the scope of improvements in the mindsets of the people so that they become more aware of the health needs of theirs as well as their loved ones.
Dr. Sveta Agarwal is Director and CEO at MyVacc. Her organization helps to nurture immunity with timely vaccination which is delivered responsibly and is dedicated to the holistic well-being of both children and adults. Since time is of utmost importance to everybody, MyVacc makes home vaccination possible by sending a proficient team of doctors, nurses, and EMTs along with ambulances following all necessary safety protocol to people’s doorstep to vaccinate them and save their time. The services are available for all sections of society. The motto of MyVacc is to deliver affordable vaccinations at home with international standards of health care services.
How are healthcare platforms like MyVacc a boon for India?
Dr. Sveta emphasizes, “Healthcare platforms are boon for India right now. Before these platforms, people had to go to healthcare centers to get services. Many people ignored or delayed going to the clinics to avail healthcare facilities due to lack of time. If they had to take their child for vaccination, they had to plan first by taking off half a day from work, feeding the child, getting him/her ready and then going to the doctor's clinic. They had to even wait there for an hour or so, get the vaccination done, and then come back. Children used to get irritated waiting for their turn to come. So, a lot of people used to delay vaccinations. Added to this, in these pandemic times taking children to hospitals for vaccination is a big risk. Due to healthcare platforms like MyVacc, facilities like these can be availed at home. The healthcare platforms will improve health awareness and will help Indian society in many ways.”
Dr. Sveta points out, “We have been fighting to prevent our vaccine-preventable diseases over the years. Even though the government is doing a phenomenal job, there has been a lot of lacunae. Under these circumstances, MyVacc has taken the initiative of not only vaccinating the affordable but also vaccinating the underprivileged. COVID allows us to provide more services to the underprivileged.
First, we started in Bangalore, then we scaled up in Mumbai, Pune, Delhi, Hyderabad, and Chennai. When we started, we got a lot of support from the government. They gave us free vaccines and we could go and vaccinate the underprivileged. We were able to vaccinate 2500 children in 14-15 days. We started at a time when there was vaccine hesitancy. People didn't have the awareness and they were afraid of side effects.
Then the supply of the government came down but there was a private sector boom where we picked up again. We partnered with a lot of hospitals and also had paid corporate vaccination drives where with every paid vaccination, corporates donated 1 vaccine. They helped their frontline workers and also helped us to vaccinate the underprivileged.”
She further mentions, “In 2020 during the lockdown, we started home vaccination. We sent a nurse, ambulance, and doctor for vaccination. The demand for this model improved and we expanded this model to other cities. We have been growing and it’s purely organic growth. We have not done any marketing as such and we have been able to scale up to many cities,” says Dr. Sveta.
Change in the Indian mindset
Dr. Shveta says, “Now, online consultation is legal and patient behavior has drastically changed. Acceptance of online consultation has increased. We do online consultation by a pediatrician before vaccination. The mindsets of people have improved. Over the years, undefined mortality in India has come down. Under 5 disease and under 5 mortality rates have come down because of a change in Indian mindset related to vaccines. The government also is working on it as they have a health mission wherein they have a dedicated team for vaccination. I have worked with them in Maharashtra for one year where we have gone to even tribal villages, door to door giving polio drops.”
What more needs to be done to promote vaccination?
Dr. Shveta emphasizes, “I know the government has been doing its part but that is not enough because they don't have so much allocation of funds for vaccination in India.
So, how to cover the requirement? What we are trying to do is tying up with the vaccine manufacturers directly to bring down the cost for the patients. So, when the vaccine reaches the patient, it is with reduced cost and acceptance becomes better. We can do more immunization this way. Also, there are brands like Serum whose vaccine cost is much lesser than the other international brands. So, in a lot of ways, we can promote vaccination. Efficacy is the same for all vaccines.”
People have started talking about the efficacy of vaccines post-COVID
Dr. Shveta points out, “A lot of people have started talking about efficacy. They ask “what is the efficacy of the vaccine that my child is getting?” COVID has created this habit amongst everybody. They read the composition and details about the vaccine. Earlier even if you tried explaining not many people were bothered about what they are getting, but now they are more inquisitive and they want to understand what they are getting for the child and what are the side effects? What are the choices they have? So vaccine awareness has increased during these times and it's a good thing that has happened. Gradually vaccine acceptance will improve more."
"A lot of people had been skipping some important vaccines like pneumococcal, for children thinking that it's not mandatory. Nowadays a lot of manufacturers are making a lot of videos and posting them on social media, running ads on TV to increase vaccine awareness. Over the years, undefined mortality in India has come down,” says she.
Awareness about adult vaccination and adult vaccination cards is on the way
Dr. Shveta informs, “What we are planning with the manufacturers is to create more awareness for adult vaccinations in India. People don't know there is something known as an adult vaccination card and there is a vaccine for adults also. A lot of people have been falling sick and succumbing to illnesses that are preventable with vaccines.
We are creating a lot of awareness and trying to vaccinate adults. I am talking about vaccines apart from the COVID vaccine. There are many other diseases for which adults need vaccines. For example, a person who is on dialysis needs Hepatitis B or pneumococcal vaccine. An asthmatic person gets recurrent fever and infections. So, they need a single shot of that vaccine that would prevent health trouble,” says Dr. Sveta.
Dr. Sveta further informs, “We have distributed more than 10,000 vaccination cards among adults to create awareness so that they know that there are vaccines for adults that one should take. For example, if you have diabetes, you should take a flu shot annually so that you don't fall sick.”
Dr. Shveta highlights, “A lot of corporates also have now woken up to the fact. If you're working in an international firm, they make it mandatory to get a flu shot annually. But regular Indians didn’t take that. This culture is coming into India as well where they would take annual flu shots so that the chance of fever is less and hospitalization is also less. So, there are many benefits of vaccinations and awareness,” says she.
Vaccine availability is not a challenge, rather awareness is a challenge
Dr. Shveta emphasizes, “Vaccine availability is not a challenge in India. If it is not available at government centers, they are available with private practitioners. What lacks is awareness to take those vaccines. We are trying to create awareness amongst people that they should not avoid or neglect vaccines. We are trying to procure it directly from the manufacturer so that we can get the maximum discount for the patients.
High and mid-income families can afford the vaccines in the private sector. Most of such vaccines are by multinational firms and are a little pricey. So, we are trying to get discounts so that the low-mid-income group can also afford it. Some companies give the vaccines at a lower cost. That is nice. People can club vaccinations at different prices for their health benefits. Whatever they are getting at government sectors, they can take that and for rest, they can go to the doctors or approach us and we can come home and give. That would be the solution.”
Message for Everyone
Dr. Shveta says, “Indian manufacturers like Serum and Bharat Biotech have covered all the vaccines on the chart except three or four. We have surplus vaccines in India. There has never been a shortage. We get both Indian as well as international brands here. All these vaccines are equally good. The only thing is that we should take vaccines. Vaccination over the years has given us proof that this is the best way to prevent diseases.
I will say vaccination prevents and protects so definitely everybody should get vaccinated. For adults, one size does not fit all. Different vaccines can be taken depending upon individual health. We have to choose. For children, there is a standard format, a protocol that should be followed. For both age groups, vaccines are very important for long-term health,” says Dr. Shveta.
(Edited by Amrita Priya)