Central government asks Serum Institute, Bharat Biotech to slash prices of COVID-19 vaccine
The two companies are now expected to come up with revised pricing for their vaccines.
The central government on Monday asked Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech to lower the price of their Covid-19 vaccines amid criticism from several states who have accused the companies of profiteering from the crisis.
The issue of vaccine pricing was discussed at a meeting chaired by Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba. The two companies are now expected to come up with revised pricing for their vaccines.
Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII), the world’s largest vaccine maker in terms of volume, has announced a price of Rs 400 per dose for Covishield for state governments, and Rs 600 per dose for private hospitals.
Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech has fixed the price of Covaxin at Rs 600 per dose for state governments, and Rs 1,200 per dose for private hospitals.
Both vaccines are available to the central government at a rate of Rs 150 per dose.
The Centre has relaxed its vaccination strategy in the third phase under which the country's large 18-plus population will get inoculated from May 1.
In the new vaccine regime, manufacturers will supply 50% of their monthly Central Drugs Laboratory (CDL)-released doses to the central government, and will be free to supply the remaining 50% to state governments and the open market.
The government has said that manufacturers would have to make an advance declaration of the price for the 50% supply that would be available to state governments and in the open market.
Many states have objected to different prices for the vaccines, with Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal saying this is not time for profiteering.
Kerjiwal also appealed to the vaccine manufacturers to bring down the price to Rs 150 a dose, saying that they have an entire lifetime to earn profits but this is a time to show humanity. He said the central government should cap the price of vaccines, if needed.
The Congress termed the new policy as “discriminatory and insensitive”, and accused the government of allowing vaccine makers to profiteer to the tune of Rs 1.11 lakh crore.
SII has defended pricing Covishield at 1.5 times the initial rate, saying the earlier price was based on advance funding, and the company has to now invest in scaling up and expanding capacity to produce more shots.
Announcing the price of Covaxin, Bharat Biotech Chairman and Managing Director Krishna M Ella had said that recovering cost is essential for innovation.
(With inputs from agency)
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