Indians getting vaccinated with Covishield at private hospitals from May 1 will be paying the highest price for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in the whole world as the latest price for the vaccine in the private market has been set at Rs 600 per dose, according to reports.
As India struggles to fight the pandemic’s second wave, the Serum Institute of India (SII) announced its latest rate for per dose of the vaccine at Rs 600 in the private market. This rate amounts to about $8 per shot, which is more than the AstraZeneca vaccine’s price in any major global market, the Indian Express reported.
In the United Kingdom, the domestically produced Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine costs the government around $3 (£2.17) per jab, according to the BMJ, a medical trade journal. On the other hand, the European Union is paying $2.15 per dose for the UK-developed vaccine and the Unites States is paying marginally more at $4 (£2.90) per shot. Whereas, India’s price at $8 per shot is the double of what the US is paying.
This development comes despite the vaccine being domestically contract-manufactured by Pune’s SII and the institute’s CEO Adar Poonawalla having said to NDTV that they were making a profit even at the price of Rs 150 per dose, the Express report said.
Originally developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, the SII has been manufacturing the vaccine in India under the name Covishield with a licence from the Swedish-British drugmaker. SII has also conducted a clinical trial of the vaccine in the country.
Amid an unprecedented surge in Covid-19 cases across India, the Narendra Modi-led government opened up vaccination for everyone above 18 years of age; earlier, only frontline workers and those above the age of 45 could get vaccinated. But this announcement came with a caveat -- vaccine manufacturers will now be empowered to release up to 50% of their supply to state governments and in the open market at a pre-declared price. vaccine manufacturers and private vaccination providers will get to set their own price in the private market, for which the government has not specified a cap. Moreover, only people above age 45 would continue to avail the Centre’s free vaccination.
The Modi government claims this move will incentivise manufacturers to further scale up production and attract new national and international players -- but it is unlcear at what cost would that be achieved in a country where 60% of the population is under the poverty line.
Earlier in January, much before vaccination was broadened, SII CEO and owner Poonawalla had even expressed his aim to set the vaccine price in private market at Rs 1000. “We've given a special price of Rs 200 for the first 100 mn doses only to GoI (Government of India) on their request, that we want to support common man, vulnerable, poor, healthcare workers. After that we will be selling it at Rs 1000 in private markets,” he told ANI.
Aside from private vaccine providers, people getting vaccinated at state government facilities could also have to shell out around Rs 400 (over $5.30) per dose if the states are unable to absorb the costs of procuring doses after May 1. There have already been reports of vaccine shortages from several states.
Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Janata Party has been promising free vaccine if they are brought to power in states going to elections, the latest being in West Bengal where Assembly polls are ongoing.
The Rs 400 procurement price would be applicable to both State and new procurement orders by the Centre. According to the Express report, this price is still higher than the price which governments in the US, UK and in the EU are paying directly to AstraZeneca. It is also higher than the price countries like Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia and South Africa are paying for the vaccine supplied by SII. Most of these countries are also offering the shots to the public for free.
Moreover, Brazil is reported to be paying $3.15 per dose for the AstraZeneca vaccine through state-owned Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz). Bangladesh is paying $4 per dose for vaccines supplied by SII, Reuters reported in January this year. Besides, South Africa and Saudi Arabia paid around $5.25 per dose to SII, according to UNICEF’s Covid Vaccine Market Dashboard.
The Union Health Ministry did not respond to the Indian Express’s query on whether the government had agreed to an increased price of Covishield at Rs 400 per shot.