Amid criticism from states, Centre asks SII & Bharat Biotech to lower price of COVID-19 vaccines

With the second largest population and one of the biggest pharmaceutical manufacturing capacities in the world, India has a central role in the COVID-19 vaccination effort. As India struggles to contain the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, its vaccination drive is threatening to fall apart. As the Serum Institute of India (SII) and Bharat Biotech revealed the prices of their vaccines, the Central government on Monday asked both the vaccine manufacturers to lower the price of their COVID-19 vaccines ahead of the third phase of the nationwide vaccination drive from May 1.

The request from the Centre came amid criticism from several states who accused the companies of profiteering from the crisis. According to various sources, the issue of the high vaccine prices for the state and for the open market was discussed at a meeting chaired by Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba and the manufacturers of Covishield and Covaxin, SII and Bharat Biotech respectively are expected to come up with revised pricing for their vaccines.

Vaccine prices revealed:

Bharat Biotech has fixed the price of ‘Covaxin’ at Rs. 600 per dose for state governments and at Rs. 1,200 per dose for private hospitals. Apart from this, the Hyderabad-based company has tagged the vaccine between USD 15-20 for export markets.  

Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine maker in terms of volume, on the other hand, has announced a price of Rs. 400 per dose for ‘Covishield’ for state governments and Rs. 600 per dose for private hospitals. 

While both the manufacturers have labelled their vaccines at different prices, both the vaccines will be available to the central government at the rate of Rs. 150 per dose.   

With revised Phase 3 strategy, will state governments be able to vaccinate the population?

With the Central government’s new approach towards Phase 3 of the vaccination drive, state governments are finding it difficult to vaccinate the state’s population. While several states have announced free vaccines to all adults above the age of 18 years, some states are criticising the Centre’s decision of liberalised vaccination programme as due to the coronavirus pandemic states were already reeling under the loss of revenue and now burdening them with the vaccine costs will further increase their problems.

Looking at the crisis, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has urged the manufacturing companies to supply the vaccine at Rs. 150 per dose across the board and has also criticised the companies by saying that this is not the time for the manufacturers to make profit. With this, he even criticised the Central government for its ‘discriminatory and insensitive’ vaccine policy.

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