Updated: April 22, 2021 3:11:03 am
SERUM INSTITUTE of India’s Covishield will be available to state governments at Rs 400 a dose and private hospitals at Rs 600 a dose, the Pune-headquartered company said on Wednesday. The company also said it would scale up its production capacity to manufacture 100 million doses of the vaccine every month by July.
“Till July we will continue producing six to seven crore (50 to 60 million) doses per month. After that, we are aiming to manufacture 100 million doses of Covishield by July end,” Adar Poonawalla, the company’s CEO, told the Indian Express.
Of this, 50 per cent would be given to the central government and the rest to the private sector and state governments. “It will take us a few months to address some issues like shortage of raw materials,” he said, adding that for the next two months, the company would work towards scaling up its production capacities.
The company announcements came two days after the central government decided to open up vaccinations against Covid-19 to those above the age of 18 years.
According to the government’s latest decision, around 50 per cent of the doses produced by vaccine makers will be provided in the “open market” at a pre-declared price. State governments, private hospitals and industrial establishments can purchase these doses for vaccinations of those aged between 18 and 45.
Those aged above 45 are eligible for free vaccinations at government centres. However, the reduced rate of Rs 250 per dose at private facilities, which those aged above 45 were able to avail so far under the government’s immunization programme, may change. This is because private facilities have to directly procure their vaccines from the companies now.
It is not clear at this stage how much over this cost private hospitals will be able to charge those who arrive at their facilities for vaccinations. The Centre on Monday said that private vaccination providers had to “transparently” declare their pre-set prices of vaccinations.
The SII is likely to begin dispatching doses of Covishield for use in the expanded age group from the third or fourth week of May, Poonawalla said in a televised interview to CNBC TV-18 on Wednesday. States do not “need” to buy the vaccines if they do not want to, as private hospitals are “more than enough” to handle the exercise, he said, adding that he did not understand their “hulabaloo”.
Once the current procurement order to the Centre is fulfilled, the price of Covishield for use in the country’s ongoing immunization of priority groups will also be raised to Rs 400 a dose from Rs 150 currently, he said. The higher price is a result of enhanced confidence in the vaccine’s ability to work and the firm’s interest in recouping its investment into making Covishield under a licence from AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, according to him.
The firm expects to also make available doses of Covishield through “retail and free trade” channels after 4-5 months, when it expects the vaccine to receive full licensure for sale in the private market.
States are allowed to decide how they would ration out the doses they procure from vaccine makers directly.
The remaining 50 per cent of the doses will be provided to the central government, which will be supplied to states for use in its immunization programme as per an undisclosed formula that the government has been using to distribute these resources across the country.
“Considering the global vaccine prices, we are ensuring that our vaccines are affordable in comparison to American vaccines (Rs 1,500/dose), Russian vaccines (Rs 750/dose) and Chinese vaccines (Rs 750/dose),” the SII said in a release on its pricing of Covishield.
“Furthermore, owing to the complexity, and urgency of the situation it is challenging to supply it independently to each corporate entity. We would urge all corporate and private individuals to access the vaccines through the state facilitated machinery and private health systems,” it stated.
The other vaccine currently available in India’s immunisation programme is Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin. The price of this vaccine has not been made public yet. Sputnik V, the third vaccine to receive emergency use authorisation in India, is expected to be imported towards the end of May, according to Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, which is to distribute the vaccine here.
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