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Covishield price row; Centre says it will procure vaccines at ₹150 per dose

By Priyanka Verma 
Updated Date

New Delhi: Facing criticism over a new vaccine policy that could have people paying far more for a Covid shot, the government today put out a clarification. It said that vaccines procured by the central government would be provided free to states. However, the statement says nothing on the higher prices of vaccines sourced by states and private hospitals directly from the manufacturers.

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“It is clarified that the government of India’s procurement price for both COVID-19 vaccines remains ₹ 150 per dose. GOI procured doses will continue to be provided TOTALLY FREE to states,” the Ministry of Health tweeted this morning.

From May 1, vaccinations will be open to all adults, but there will be three different prices.

So far, the Centre was buying vaccines from manufacturers – Covishield from Serum Institute of India (SII) and Covaxin from Bharat Biotech – and distributing them free of cost to states.

While opening up vaccinations to all above 18, the Centre has tweaked its policy to allow states and private entities to buy doses directly from vaccine-makers. Manufacturers are free to supply 50 per cent of the doses to states and in the open market.

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It also said it would continue to provide free inoculation to existing beneficiaries – health workers, frontline workers and all above 45.

The Serum Institute of India on Wednesday announced that Covishield would be priced at ₹ 400 a dose for states and ₹ 600 for private hospitals.

Serum also said it would continue to sell the vaccines at the existing rate of ₹ 150 a dose to the centre. This means that a Covid shot will be cheapest at any central government facility but at state government centres and private hospitals, people have to pay more.

While Bharat Biotech has not yet announced the open market price of Covaxin, Serum Institute said it will provide Covishield to states at ₹400 per dose and to private hospitals at ₹600 per dose. This is a considerable increase from ₹150 in which the Centre procured per dose of vaccines from both SII and Bharat Biotech in the first two phases of the vaccination. Clarifying, Adar Poonawalla said ₹150 was a special price for the Centre for the initial contracts. When the Centre places new orders, it will also have to pay ₹400.

Congress leader Jairam Ramesh on Saturday raised the issue of pricing and said if for the new orders, the government has to pay ₹400, then it will be paying higher than what the US, UK, EU, Saudi, Bangladesh and the South African government paid.

Replying to the Congress leader’s tweet, the ministry said the Centre will continue to procure both Covishield and Covaxin at ₹150 per dose. “What is the truth?” Jairam Ramesh replied.

Here is all you need to know about the price controversy

> Both Covishield and Covaxin are manufactured in India. While Covaxin has also been developed in India, Covishield was developed by Oxford University in collaboration with AstraZeneca. Both the vaccines are presently manufactured in India.

> When the vaccination drive began in January, the Centre procured the vaccines from both the vaccine makers at around ₹200 per dose. Vaccines for healthcare workers and frontline workers were free.

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> As private hospitals were included in the second phase of vaccination and were allowed to charge ₹250 per dose, the government renegotiated the procurement price and brought it down to ₹150. People above the age of 45 years were included in the phase.

> Now in the third phase, the Centre allowed states and private hospitals to directly buy vaccines from the manufacturers. The pricing has to be transparent and declared in advance, the Centre said.

> Serum Institute’s announcement followed Centre’s guideline where it also said that its open market price in India is cheaper than that of America, China, Russia.

> When a controversy erupted over why states will have to pay ₹400 per dose while the Centre paid ₹150, Adar Poonawalla said ₹150 was a special price and will not be effective even for the Centre for the new orders.

> Centre contradicted and said it will continue procuring both Covishield and Covaxin at ₹150.

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