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Covid vaccine distribution by companies will soon be covered under CSR

Covid vaccine distribution by companies will soon be covered under CSR

Companies will soon be allowed to procure Covid-19 vaccines for community inoculation drives that include their employees and family members and claim such expenditure as corporate social responsibility spending.

The government will issue norms in the form of frequently asked questions on how such expenditure can be counted as part of a company’s CSR obligations as long as it is part of a community-based vaccination project, a government official told ET.

Companies including Reliance Industries, Accenture, Infosys and Tata Consultancy Services have said they will cover the cost of vaccinations for eligible employees and their family members who choose to take the shot.

According to the proposed norms, if companies cover the cost of vaccinating people in local communities around their offices or factories, which include employee residences, in a non-discriminatory manner, it can be counted as CSR activity, after disclosing such information to the ministry of corporate affairs.

“In a broad interpretation, yes, if it is a locality or area-based approach where employees also reside. But if it is only for their employees’ colony, then obviously not,” the official said, referring to how such spending can qualify as CSR.

Any such project undertaken as a CSR activity would be subject to the government’s rules on vaccine eligibility. Currently, only healthcare and frontline workers, those above 60 years and those above 45 years with specified comorbidities can take the vaccine.

Industry had asked the government to allow spending on vaccines for employees to be treated as CSR spending. It is now pushing to expedite the next phase of the vaccination drive for people below 45 years without comorbidities.

“Until you have taken all the precautions for your productive workers in the industry, we cannot then say that we are in complete control over the health of the workers and therefore of production,” said Rumjhum Chatterjee, chairperson of Feedback Foundation, which provides sustainable solutions across rural and urban development projects.

As of now, companies cannot buy Covid-19 vaccines. Apart from government healthcare centres, vaccines are also supplied to some private hospitals, which can charge not more than Rs 250 per jab.

Companies have been asking the government for permission to conduct their own inoculation drives to help ramp up the vaccination programme.

( Originally published on Mar 23, 2021 )

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