Just two days after the Central government allowed the sale of vaccines in the open market, Serum Institute of India CEO Adar Poonawalla announced the price of its Covishield vaccine which will be available for everyone above the age of 18 years from May 1 in the open market. Going ahead with the Centre’s decision, 50 percent of the vaccine production by SII will now be for the state governments and private hospitals. During this liberalised Phase-3 of the vaccination, one dose of this two-dose vaccine will cost ₹600 for private facilities, while for the state governments it will cost ₹400.
The announcement of the fixed rate of Covishield vaccine by Serum Institute of India (SII) attracted sharp criticism as many believe that there is no logic in charging state governments higher when the Centre was getting the same vaccine at Rs 150 per dose. In response to the criticisms, Adar Poonawalla, the CEO of SII said that the new vaccine pricing is still 33-50 percent of the price of global vaccines anywhere in the world.
In further efforts to clarify his statement, he said, “SII would never take the advantage of the pandemic. We are losing money at the central government’s mandated price of Rs 150 per dose. We have to pay 50 percent of the price to AstraZeneca as royalty.”
Prices lower than private markets in other countries:
As of now, the revised price for the vaccine is turning on a lot of criticism but when compared the price of the single dose of the vaccine with the prices that the vaccine is offered in other countries, it is quite clear that even in the open market, SII is offering Covishield at a comparatively affordable rate, almost half the price.
The revised price of the Covishield vaccine is still only 50 percent of the global rates. The price of the single dose of Covishield in the private market is ₹600, while the American vaccines cost over ₹1,500 per dose at the private market and the per-dose price of Russian vaccines is more than ₹750. Also, the price of Chinese vaccines is also around ₹750 in private markets.
States announcing free vaccines from May 1:
On April 19, the Government of India announced that everyone above 18 years of age would be eligible for Covid-19 vaccination from May 1. With this, the Central government also notified that for the Phase-3 vaccination programme, private hospitals and states will be able to buy vaccine doses directly from manufacturers. The decision came as part of a “liberalised and accelerated Phase 3 strategy of COVID-19 vaccination”.
With this announcement of the Centre, several states have taken extraordinary steps to fight the ongoing health crisis. States such as Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Bihar and Kerala have announced that they will provide free vaccines for all above the age of 18.