Updated: April 24, 2021 10:25:24 pm
The Serum Institute of India (SII) said Saturday that “only a limited” portion of doses of Covishield vaccine would be sold to private hospitals at Rs 600 per dose for use in vaccinations of those aged 18 years and above.
“The price of the vaccine is still lower than a lot of other medical treatment and essentials required to treat Covid-19 and other life-threatening diseases,” said the Pune vaccine maker in a statement.
This came a day after The Indian Express reported that atRs 600 per dose, Indians getting inoculated with Covishield at private hospitals from May 1 could end up paying the highest price in the world for this vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca.
This, despite it being contract-manufactured by SII whose CEO Adar Poonawalla had said that the firm was making a profit even at a price of Rs 150 per dose.
SII CEO Adar Poonawalla had earlier said that the firm would like to sell Covishield to private hospitals, and that buying more doses than provided by the Centre was an “option” for States.
“We want to sell to the private hospitals, which will take care of all of these states and corporates. I don’t know why there is such a hullabaloo about every state complaining about this price because, look–it’s their option, it’s not their compulsion,” Poonawalla had told CNBC TV-18 on April 21.
In its statement on Saturday, the company said: “Furthermore, there was an inaccurate comparison done between the global prices of the vaccine with India“.
“The initial prices were kept very low globally as it was based on advance funding given by those countries for at-risk vaccine manufacturing. The initial supply price of Covishield for all government immunization programme, including India, has been the lowest,” stated SII in its release today.
This vaccine was developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford and SII was given a licence to manufacture the jabs for low- and middle-income countries.
The Pune firm had initially supplied Covishield to the Indian government at Rs 150 per dose.
Under India’s immunization programme for priority groups, those above 45 years of age could avail of free vaccinations at government facilities and pay Rs 250 per shot at private hospitals.
Once vaccine makers were allowed to set their own prices for States and “in the open market”, SII announced that it would charge Rs 400 per dose to States and Rs 600 to private hospitals. Around 50 percent of the doses produced by the firm will be divertedto the Centre and the remaining will be split among States and private hospitals.
SII’s CEO, Adar Poonawalla, said the rate of Rs 400 also applied to any new orders that the Central government placed for Covishield.
“All government prices will be Rs 400 (per dose) henceforth for new contracts. Now, please understand, the Rs 150 (per dose) price which is being thrown around has been for the Central government for prior commitments and contracts. After that ceases to exist… we will charge Rs 400 to any government,” said Poonawalla in his interview to CNBC TV-18.
However, the government clarified Saturday that this was unlikely to be the case. “(The) Government of India’s procurement price for both Covid-19 vaccines remains at Rs 150 per dose. These doses will continue to be provided to the States FREE OF COST,” tweeted Dr Harsh Vardhan, Minister for Health and Family Welfare, on Saturday.
However, the Rs 400 procurement price would mean the state governments would be paying over $5.30 per dose for Covishield — higher than the $2.15 to $5.25 per dose rates at which other countries have been procuring the jabs either directly from AstraZeneca or from SII.
“Government procurement for countrywide immunisation programs in all countries including India has been at a far lower price as the volumes are very large,” said SII on Saturday. It is unclear if SII has initiated discussions on price revision in other markets.
“The current situation is extremely dire; the virus is constantly mutating while the public remains at risk. Identifying the uncertainty, we have to ensure sustainability as we must be able to invest in scaling up and expanding our capacity to fight the pandemic and save lives,” stated SII Saturday.
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