SII reduces vaccine price for state govts
Serum Institute of India (SII) on Wednesday lowered the cost of its Covid-19 vaccine, Covishield, for state governments by 25% to R300 from an earlier price of R400, days ahead of the third phase of the inoculation drive that is open to all adults and is critical to arrest an alarming surge in infections across India.
SII, which manufactures the vaccine developed by Oxford University and British drug firm AstraZeneca, had last week announced a price of R400 for states and R600 for private hospitals to purchase jabs for the third phase. The announcement had immediately triggered a row with several states protesting the price and complaining it was too steep in comparison with the Centre’s procurement price of R150 a dose.
“As a philanthropic gesture on behalf of @SerumInstIndia, I hereby reduce the price to the states from Rs.400 to Rs.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,” tweeted SII chief executive officer Adar Poonawalla.
The other Indian manufacturer, Bharat Biotech, has priced its Covaxin shot at R600 for state governments and R1200 for private hospitals.
According to people aware of the matter within the government, the central government asked both the manufacturers to look at further revising the cost of vaccines to state governments.
Several state governments, and private companies, are currently in talks with both manufacturers to strike deals as the central government has allowed states and private hospitals to directly procure up to 50% of vaccine manufactured by the firms.
“Hard negotiation is happening regarding vaccine procurement but it is difficult to say at the moment when the delivery will start. Looks like the picture will be clear in a couple of days,” said an industry executive aware of the matter, requesting anonymity.
On April 19, central government announced that it opened vaccination for all adults from May 1. At least 18 states have announced that they will administer the shots free of cost.
Last week, SII had defended the pricing, saying the earlier price was based on advance funding and now it had to invest in scaling up and expanding capacity to produce more shots.
Covishield is the lead vaccine in India’s immunisation drive, and roughly 133.4 million doses of it have been administered, in comparison to 13.6 million Covaxin jabs.
Concerns about availability and shortages dog both jabs, and have shrouded the May 1 rollout date of the critical third phase in doubt. The Centre denies that there is any shortage and said on Tuesday that it gave states 150 million shots since the drive began in January and that eight million doses were in the pipeline.