NEW DELHI : Serum Institute of India (SII), which makes the most used COVID-19 vaccine in the country, on Saturday (April 24) defended pricing Covishield vaccine at 1.5 times the initial rate, saying the earlier price was based on advance funding and now it has to invest in scaling up and expanding capacity to produce more shots.
The Central government was forced to clarify on Saturday that it will continue to procure the two COVID-19 vaccines being administered in India at a price of Rs 150 per dose. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare tweeted this on its official Twitter account while also stating that doses procured by the Central government will be supplied to the states free of dose like before.
“It is clarified that Govt of India’s procurement price for both #COVID19 vaccines remains Rs 150 per dose. GOI procured doses will continue to be provided TOTALLY FREE to States,” the health ministry tweeted, a media report that the Covishield vaccine being manufactured by the Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII) will be supplied to private hospitals in the country at the highest global cost of Rs 600 (nearly USD 8).
SII, which manufactures AstraZeneca’s vaccine Covishield at its Pune facility, earlier this week announced a price of Rs 600 per dose and at Rs 400 for state governments and any new contract by the central government. This compared to Rs 150 per dose it charges the central government for the existing supplies. “There was an inaccurate comparison done between the global prices of the vaccine with India,” SII said. “Covisheld is the most affordable Covid-19 vaccine available in the market today.”
The initial price, it said, was “kept 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,” it said. “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.”
SII went on to add that only a limited portion of SII’s volume will be sold to private hospitals at Rs 600 per dose. “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,” it added.
Former union minister and senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh today called on the Narendra Modi government to renegotiate the price for procurement of the vaccines. Tagging the particular news report, Ramesh tweeted: “COVISHIELD @ ₹400 for new govt procurement is higher than what govts of US, UK, EU, Saudi, Bangladesh & SA pay. Made in India & highest price for India? By SII’s own admission profits are made even at ₹150. Prices must be renegotiated @PMOIndia @nsitharaman @drharshvardhan.”
(With PTI Inputs).