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Pfizer to offer vaccine to govt at ‘not-for-profit’ rate

The company's statement comes amid speculations that the US drug giant may sell its vaccines in open market now that the government has allowed vaccine-makers the option of setting their own prices for states and private hospitals.

Written by Prabha Raghavan | New Delhi |
Updated: April 23, 2021 7:07:55 am
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Pfizer plans to provide its Covid-19 vaccine to India at a “not-for-profit” price, according to the company.

The company’s statement comes amid speculations that the US drug giant may sell its vaccines in open market now that the government has allowed vaccine-makers the option of setting their own prices for states and private hospitals.

“For India, Pfizer has offered a not-for-profit price for its vaccine for the Government immunization program. We continue to be in discussions with the Government and remain committed to make our vaccine available for deployment in India’s immunization program,” a Pfizer spokesperson stated.

While Pfizer was the first company to seek emergency approval in India for its vaccine with BioNTech, its application was rejected because it had not conducted local trials of the vaccine here. However, amid a surge in cases, the government reversed its earlier policy on foreign vaccines that had not been tested in India.

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This was in part due to a shortage of vaccines and a slow ramp-up in production of existing Covid-19 vaccines in the country.

According to SII CEO Adar Poonawalla, the government’s decision to allow companies to set their own prices for Covid-19 vaccines in open market was a move to attract more foreign vaccines.

The Indian Express on April 21 reported that Pfizer had decided not to engage in the practice of selling its vaccines in the “open market” route.

“During the current pandemic situation worldwide, Pfizer has maintained that its priority would be to exclusively support governments through supply of its vaccine only to governments for their immunization programs. This would be our approach in India as well,” the company’s spokesperson stated in a statement on Thursday. “Further, in all our agreements, Pfizer has adopted a distinct pricing structure for high, middle, and low/lower-middle-income countries consistent with our commitment to work towards equitable and affordable access for our Covid-19 vaccine for people around the world.”

At this stage, it is unclear what not-for-profit rate Pfizer has offered to the government for its vaccine.

In the first few stages of the country’s Covid-19 vaccination programme, the government had negotiated a procurement price of around Rs 150 per dose for SII’s Covishield. The vaccines provided through this programme to priority groups were free for those who received jabs at government facilities and capped at Rs 250 a dose at private hospitals.

Poonawalla had earlier said in an interview to a TV news channel that SII was making a profit at Rs 150 per dose, but that the profits were not enough for it to invest back into capacity expansion.

“By opening it up to the private (hospitals) and the states to procure separately above Rs 150 was also a move to encourage the foreign manufacturers to come here. How are we going to get foreign vaccines in India if they have to sell at Rs 150?” he said on Wednesday in an interview to CNBC TV-18.

The SII has set a price of Rs 400 per dose of Covishield for states and Rs 600 per dose for private hospitals — higher than the prices negotiated for the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine in other international markets. The Pune firm is manufacturing the vaccine on a licence from the Swedish-British company.

Other vaccines that are expected to be available in the country for the open market include Covaxin and Sputnik V.

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