The Indian government on Monday asked the Serum Institute of India (SII) and Bharat Biotech to lower the prices of their vaccines against the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) ahead of the third phase of the nationwide vaccination drive from 1 May, news agency PTI reported citing sources.
Monday's request by the Indian government came after a row erupted over the vaccine prices ahead of the third phase of the vaccination drive from 1 May, when all adults will be eligible for the jabs.
SII along with British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca is producing Covishield while Bharat Biotech is making Covaxin in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). Both the vaccines were granted approval for emergency use by the Drugs Controller General of India (DGCI) on 3 January this year.
Under the third phase, there will be two segments with regard to the supply of doses—vaccine manufacturers will supply 50 per cent of their monthly Central Drugs Laboratory (CDL) doses to the central government and will also be free to supply the remaining 50 per cent doses to the states and in the open market. State government hospitals and private hospitals can now directly purchase vaccine doses from the manufacturers.
SII has said Covishield will be sold to states at Rs400 per dose while private hospitals will have to pay Rs600 per dose. Covaxin will be sold at Rs600 per dose to the state government hospitals and Rs1,200 for private hospitals, Bharat Biotech has said. However, the central government will purchase doses of both vaccines at Rs150 per dose.
This led to the leaders of several opposition parties slamming the central government of procuring vaccine doses at cheaper prices and also accused the manufacturers of profiteering from it. However, dismissing all allegations, Union health minister Dr Harsh Vardhan said on Sunday the central government will continue to give vaccine doses from its 50 per cent quota to the states and Union Territories (UTs) free of cost. In a four-page letter, Vardhan added this quota is also open for the private and the corporate sector to pool in their resources so that the combined effort can be deployed to inoculate every adult in this country in the earliest possible time.