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Covishield price row: Centre says will procure vaccine at Rs 150, provide for free to states

"It is clarified that the government of India's procurement price for both COVID-19 vaccines remains Rs 150 per dose. GOI procured doses will continue to be provided TOTALLY FREE to states," said Ministry of Health

twitter-logoBusinessToday.In | April 24, 2021 | Updated 13:40 IST
Covishield price row: Centre says will procure vaccine at Rs 150, provide for free to states
Covishield price row: Centre says it will buy for Rs 150

Amid the row on pricing of Serum Institute's Covishield vaccine, the Centre has said that it will continue to procure the vaccine for Rs 150 only. It added that the vaccine that will be procured by the Centre will be given to states for free. Meanwhile, the Adar Poonawalla-helmed company had recently listed out its rates, pricing the vaccine at Rs 400 for government hospitals and Rs 600 for private hospitals.

"It is clarified that the government of India's procurement price for both COVID-19 vaccines remains Rs 150 per dose. GOI procured doses will continue to be provided TOTALLY FREE to states," the Ministry of Health tweeted on Saturday.

The Centre's clarification follows a report in The Indian Express that said that at Rs 600 ($8) per dose, Indians will end up paying the highest price at private hospitals for the vaccine manufactured in India. The report stated that even Rs 400 (over $5.30) is higher than the price at which governments of the US, UK and the European Union are directly sourcing from AstraZeneca. It is also higher than the rate agreed by Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia and South Africa, where governments are absorbing the cost and giving the vaccine for free. The daily said that Saudi Arabia and South Africa are procuring the vaccine for $5.25, while the US and Bangladesh are procuring it for $4, Brazil for $3.15, UK for $3 and EU for $2.15-3.50.

Poonawalla said on Wednesday that the Centre had paid Rs 3,000 crore in advance. A large portion of that amount would be used for the fulfilment of an order of 110 million doses that was placed for Rs 150 per dose. But for any fresh order the government too would have to pay Rs 400 a dose, as per Poonawalla. This means that with the remaining Rs 1,350 crore, the government will be able to procure only 35 million doses. However, the Centre's tweet on Saturday said that it would continue to procure the vaccine at Rs 150 per dose.

The three different pricing had provoked furious protestations from several state leaders, opposition parties and consumers.

However, this was not all unexpected. Poonawalla had earlier said that the Rs 150 rate is only for a limited period after which the company would hike up the price to around Rs 1,500 or $20. "It is not that we're not making profits... but we are not making super profits, which is key to re-investing," he had said in an interview.

This all came into play after the Centre announced that from May 1 all above 18 years would be eligible for the vaccination. It also changed its vaccine policy to allow states and private entities to directly buy doses from the vaccine makers. Manufacturers are free to supply 50 per cent of the doses to states and open market.

Also read: Covishield to cost Rs 600 at private hospitals, Rs 400 at govt hospitals

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