The price of Covid-19 vaccines in India’s private market has shot up by about five to six times as the government, in its third phase of the national vaccination drive, allowed vaccine manufacturers to set the price for private distribution.
Covishield and Covaxin, the two vaccines earlier available for Rs 250 per jab at private hospitals, are now priced at Rs 700-900 and Rs 1250-1500 respectively, the Times of India reported. Covishield is being manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII) while Covaxin has been developed by Bharat Biotech.
The vaccine price in India is one of the highest in the world-- around $12 for one dose of Covishield and $17 for Covaxin. Both vaccines have two mandatory doses. Further, India is among a handful of countries in the world that are charging people for Covid vaccination.
Meanwhile, the major chunk of the vaccination in the private sector is being dominated by four big corporate hospital groups--Apollo, Max, Fortis and Manipal, according to the Times of India report. This has revealed that the latest vaccine policy is leading to profiteering by a small group of hospitals while making universal vaccination harder, experts said.
Before the Centre opened up vaccination for everyone above age 18 from May 1, the Union government was procuring both Covishield and Covaxin at Rs 150 per dose and sending them to state governments and private hospitals for inoculation of only those older than 45 years of age. Private hospitals were allowed to charge Rs 100 above the cost for administration of the vaccine.
Now, in the third phase, the private sector is having to directly procure the vaccines from the manufacturers who have set their rates high in absence of an upper limit set by the government. SII has set the price of the vaccine for private hospitals at Rs 600 and Bharat Biotech at Rs 1200 per dose.
The landed price of Covishield was Rs 660-670 including GST, transportation and storage cost, according to the report that quotes a spokesperson of Max Hospital. Adding to that a 5-6% wastage due to breakage, the cost comes at Rs 710-715 per dose. This is then appended with the cost of hand sanitiser, PPE kit for staff, and biomedical waste disposal etc. Which take the price further up to Rs 900, the report added.
In the meantime, several state governments have raised complaints about vaccine shortage hindering the third phase vaccination drive. Smaller hospitals are also being refused when they try to place procurement orders while many have been told that the SII had pending orders from Centre and states and was not taking any further orders at present, the TOI reported.