NEW DELHI :
Serum Institute of India has reduced the price of Covishield for states to ₹300 per dose from ₹400 earlier, chief executive officer Adar Poonawalla said.
“As a philanthropic gesture on behalf of Serum Institute of India, I hereby reduce the price to the states from ₹400 to ₹300 per dose, effective immediately. This will save thousands of crores of state funds going forward. This will enable more vaccinations and save countless lives,” Poonawalla tweeted.
However, neither he nor his company provided clarity on whether the new price will also be applicable for the Central government.
The move follows criticism over the company’s sharp increase in price for governments and private hospital. The government’s current order of 110 million doses of Covishield is being supplied by Serum Institute at ₹150 ($2) per dose, which is the lowest in the world for the vaccine originally developed by University of Oxford and AstraZeneca plc.
However, after the Centre on 19 April allowed liberalised pricing of covid-19 vaccines, the company two days later increased its prices to ₹400 per dose for Centre and states and ₹600 for private hospitals, which is among the highest in the world.
One of the primary reasons cited by Poonawalla for the increase in prices is that the company was “losing money at the current price point” of ₹150. However, in an interview to news channel NDTV earlier this month, Poonawalla had said that the company was making profit at ₹150 but it was not enough to reinvest in scaling up capacity.
At ₹400-600 ($5.3-8) per dose, it was higher than the price charged by the company and AstraZeneca in other countries and World Health Organization-led Covax, where it sought anywhere between $3 to $5.25 per dose. In the US, AstraZeneca is planning to sell the vaccine at $4 per dose.
Poonawalla had on Saturday defended the company’s pricing of Covishield, saying that it is still lower than most covid-19 treatments, and increasing the price was necessary to keep it sustainable.
“Only a limited portion of SII’s volume will be sold to private hospitals at INR 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,” Serum Institute of India said in the statement.
Announcement of new prices for Covishield follows the government’s order last week to expand the scale of vaccination to include direct procurement by states and the private market and allow vaccination of all adults, as against the current policy of inoculating only healthcare and frontline workers, and people above 45 years of age.
According to the policy for phase 3 of the vaccination programme, all adults can be vaccinated starting 1 May. Those who are below 45 years or not healthcare and other frontline workers will not qualify for the central government’s free doses and will have to buy them from private hospitals.
Half of all the vaccines produced and sent to Central Drugs Laboratory for testing will go directly to the Centre for its existing vaccination programme. Vaccine makers will have to supply the other half to states and to the private market at a “pre-determined price”.
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