A day after India began its emergency vaccination drive of inoculating its frontline workers at free of cost in the first phase, the Congress accused the government of spending more for Covid-19 vaccines. Issuing a statement, the party said Covishield, as the vaccine manufactured by Serum Institute of India is known, costs ₹200 per dose. However, Belgium is getting the vaccine at ₹158 per dose, the party said, quoting an article of The Guardian.
“Astrazeneca earlier said that it would supply the vaccine at no profit. Then why is the government of India paying ₹200 for Astrazeaca vaccine to Serum Institute of India?” party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala asked.
Will the Modi govt tell the nation why India is paying a higher price than other countries for the same vaccine? A vaccine that has been produced in India. #FreeVaccineforAll pic.twitter.com/WWY1X6S85g
— Congress (@INCIndia) January 17, 2021
The Congress has also questioned the government why it is paying more to Bharat Biotech which developed the vaccine, Covaxin, with the expertise and experience of the scientists of Indian Council of Medical Research.
“Why should the Modi government pay ₹95 more to Bharat Biotech for a vaccine that has only been tested on 755 individuals and is yet to be cleared after Phase III trials? Should the price of such a vaccine not be cheaper than the AstraZeneca-Serum Institute?” the party asked.
Opposing the government’s plan to allow the export of the vaccines, the Congress said the government should not export vaccines without immunizing the entire population of the country.
Congress also sought clarification on how the rest of the people would be vaccinated. Several states, including Bihar, Kerala, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, have announced free vaccines to its people, while the Centre is sponsoring the vaccination of the priority groups. The Centre is yet to spell out any modality for the procurement of vaccines for common people. Asking whether the common people will have to pay ₹2,000 for two doses of the vaccines, Randeep Surjewala said, “If 100 Crore people end up paying ₹1,600 extra for the vaccine, the cost would come to a whopping ₹1,60,000 Crores. Has the Govt even considered this as also other questions being raised in the public domain?”
The Drug Controller General of India granted restricted, emergency use authorization to Serum Institute of India’s Covishield and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin. Both the vaccines are at the third stage of the trial. Covishield’s efficacy data is available, while Covaxin still doesn’t have efficacy data, which already triggered a political battle of barbs.
India is procuring 110 lakh doses of Covishield at the cost of ₹200 per dose. But this is a special price for the government, the Serum Institute of India has said. Though it has not yet declared any final price of the vaccine at which the doses will be available for common people, the price will definitely be more than ₹200, somewhere around ₹400-500, CEO Adar Poonawalla had hinted.
As it comes to Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin, the Centre is procuring 38.5 lakh doses at a rate of ₹295. But as Bharat Biotech is providing 16.5 lakh vaccines doses free, the cost per dose comes at ₹206. For common people, it is likely to cost ₹295 per dose.0