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Opposition terms Covishield pricing ‘discriminatory’, calls for one nation, one price for Covid vaccines

Following the criticism, SII CEO Adar Poonawalla later clarified that it is not a different price. "All government prices will be Rs 400 henceforth for new contracts," he said.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi |
April 21, 2021 10:32:06 pm
vaccination, CovishieldSisodia was reacting to BJP’s statement that the state government ordered only 5.5 lakh doses and did not plan well for vaccination.(Express photo/Praveen Khanna)

The Serum Institute of India’s decision to fix the rate of Covishield vaccine for private hospitals and state governments has attracted sharp criticism from the Opposition, who argued that there was no logic in charging state governments higher when the Centre was getting the same vaccine at Rs 150 per dose.

Serum Institute of India (SII), the world’s largest vaccine-maker, on Wednesday announced that it will charge state governments Rs 400 per dose and private hospitals Rs 600 per dose for the vaccine. In a statement, SII said that “the promising directives will help to scale-up vaccine production, and allow state governments, private hospitals and vaccination centres to procure vaccines directly.”

It added that in the next two months, 50% of its capacities will be served to the Central government’s vaccination program, while the remaining 50% will be for State governments and private hospitals.

Leading the attack on the government, Congress leader Jairam Ramesh termed the differential Covishield pricing “atrocious” and said it will “bleed dry the already reeling state finances”.

“Central Govt will continue to pay Rs 150 per dose for Covishield. State govts will now be charged Rs 400 a dose. This is not cooperative federalism. This will bleed dry the already reeling state finances. Atrocious!” Ramesh tweeted.

He further demanded one nation, one price for COVID-19 vaccines.

The Congress further slammed the Centre saying the move was “discriminatory” and will benefit only a “few big industrialists” while the common people will suffer.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi took to Twitter to allege injustice on the part of the central government and compared the new vaccine policy to demonetisation. “Disaster of the country, opportunity for friends of Modi. Injustice of the central government,” he said in a tweet using the hashtag “#VaccineDiscrimination”.

“The central government’s vaccine strategy is no less than the demonetisation. The common people will stand in queues, will suffer loss of wealth, health and life and in the end only a few big industrialists will benefit,” Gandhi said in another tweet.

Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala termed the move as “Modi govt’s new crony bonanza scheme to make money out of people’s misery.”

Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram, meanwhile, questioned as to who will pay Rs 400 for one dose in government hospitals. “The state government or the beneficiary?”

“How many persons between 18 and 44 years can afford to pay Rs 400 per dose? Will the beneficiary be burdened with the cost,” Chidambaram said. He also asked how many states would be willing to pay the price of the vaccine and subsidise the people.

Following the criticism, SII CEO Adar Poonawalla later clarified that it is not a different price. “All government prices will be Rs 400 henceforth for new contracts,” he said. “Please understand the Rs 150 price which is being thrown around has been for the central government for prior commitments and contracts. After that ceases to exist, after we supply about 100 million doses to them, which was ordered in bulk a long time ago, we will also charge Rs 400 to any government,” he said.

So, after opening up the policy, “the new price to the government is Rs 400 and for private hospitals it is Rs 600,” he said. “Also to put it in context, it is half or one-third the price of most global vaccines.”

The previous pricing, Poonawalla said, was given without even knowing if the vaccine will work and it was a “risk sharing price” that was agreed for a limited amount of quantities. “Now that the vaccine is licensed and is showing good efficacy, we have now announced, based on the new policy of the government, these prices,” he said.

He also said SII will be able to raise its monthly output of the AstraZeneca-Oxford University COVID-19 vaccine to 100 million doses by July from 60-70 million now, later than a previous timeline of end-May.

India initially immunised the most vulnerable, but broadened that to anyone over 45 years on April 1 because of a surge in cases. It has now allowed all citizens over 18 years of age to get vaccinated from May 1.

Covishield comprises over 90 per cent of the 12.76 crore COVID-19 vaccines administered across the country so far, according to government data on Wednesday.

Of the 127,605,870 COVID-19 vaccination jabs administered till now, 11,60,65,107 are of Covishield, while 1,15,40,763 are Covaxin, according to the government’s CO-WIN portal.

With PTI inputs

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