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SII sets price tags for Covishield vaccine

Serum Institute of India chief executive Adar Poonawalla said the company will ensuring that its vaccines are affordable in comparison to any other vaccines in the world. (REUTERS)Premium
Serum Institute of India chief executive Adar Poonawalla said the company will ensuring that its vaccines are affordable in comparison to any other vaccines in the world. (REUTERS)

Serum Institute of India will charge 400 per dose for Covishield from the Centre and states for fresh orders and 600 per dose from private hospitals from 1 May, when covid-19 vaccinations are opened for all adults

Serum Institute of India will charge 400 per dose for Covishield from the Centre and states for fresh orders and 600 per dose from private hospitals from 1 May, when covid-19 vaccinations are opened for all adults.

“We are losing money at the current price point, which is not viable. Which is why following the recent announcement by the GoI (government of India), we have priced Covishield at 400 per dose for the states and central government," Serum Institute chief executive officer Adar Poonawalla said in response to a query.

Over 50 million doses of vaccine were administered in the first half of April
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Over 50 million doses of vaccine were administered in the first half of April


He added that even at the increased prices, Covishield is affordable in comparison to any other vaccine in the world.

The company is currently supplying 110 million doses to the Centre at 150 per dose, following which all new orders will be at the new price.

The new price, however, is lower than Poonawalla’s earlier statements that he expected the vaccine to cost 1,000 per shot in the private market. Covishield is a two-dose vaccine, with the second shot given 4-8 weeks after the first.

At 400 per dose, it is marginally higher than the initial order of 10 million doses that Sri Lanka had placed at $52.5 million, or roughly 396 per dose. It is still higher than the $3 that the company and AstraZeneca, which co-developed the vaccine with the University of Oxford, charge for the vaccine from the World Health Organization-led Covax.

Poonawalla on Wednesday said the higher pricing could help the company scale up capacity.

The company is currently producing 60-70 million doses per month, but will scale it up to around 100 million by July, he said.

Poonawalla, in a statement, said that for the initial four to five months, vaccines will only be made available to states and private hospitals, and the company will not enter into supply pacts with companies that want to vaccinate its employees, nor will it sell it in retail and free trade.

“Owing to the complexity and urgency of the situation, it is challenging to supply it independently to each entity. We would urge all corporate and private individuals to access the vaccines through state-facilitated machinery and private health systems. Post 4-5 months, the vaccines will be made available in retail and free trade," Poonawalla said.

His announcement of increased pricing for central and state governments, and private hospitals, follows the central government’s decision on Monday to expand the scale of vaccination to include direct procurement by states and the private market.

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".

However, the change in vaccination strategy comes at a time of a shortage of vaccines when only the priority groups are being covered. Serum Institute produces 60-70 million doses of Covishield every month, while Bharat Biotech’s monthly Covaxin manufacturing capacity is around 10 million. In contrast, over 50 million doses of vaccine were administered in the first half of April. In such a scenario, there are concerns among states about vaccine availability, while funding their procurement could potentially stretch their finances, which have already been hit by the pandemic.

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