Bharat Biotech has reduced the price of its COVID-19 vaccine Covaxin from Rs 600 to Rs 400 per dose for state governments.
This follows widespread criticism of its pricing policy after it sold Covaxin to the Central Government at Rs 150 per dose and comes on the heels of Serum Institute of India reducing the rate of its vaccine 'Covishield'.
"Recognising the enormous challenges in the public healthcare system, we have made Covaxin available to state governments at a price of 400/ dose", Bharat Biotech said in its announcement.
"We wish to be transparent in our approach to pricing which was determined by internally funded product development, several operationally-intensive BSL-3 manufacturing facilities(the first of its kind in our country) and clinical trials," the statement added.
The price per dose for private buyers — which includes private hospitals — continues to remain Rs 1,200.
On Wednesday, SII cut the price for Covishield by Rs 100 — from Rs 400 per dose to Rs 300. SII''s CEO Adar Poonawalla took to Twitter to announce the "philanthropic" gesture.
"As a philanthropic gesture on behalf of Serum Institute of India, 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," Poonawalla wrote in his tweet.
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.
— Adar Poonawalla (@adarpoonawalla) April 28, 2021
Ahead of the third phase of inoculation for people between the ages of 18 and 45, many states objected to the "differential" pricing of the vaccines, with Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal saying this is not time for profiteering.
Additionally, BJP ally AIADMK, the party ruling in Tamil Nadu, also called the prices "unfair" and asked the Centre to procure vaccine doses on behalf of the state governments.
Following the objections, the Centre on Monday asked the Serum Institute and Bharat Biotech to lower the prices of their COVID-19 vaccines. The issue of vaccine pricing was discussed at a meeting chaired by Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba.
The pricing structures were also criticised by health experts, economists, and Opposition parties.
Economist R Ramakumar, who is a professor at the School of Development Studies at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), questioned why the contract between the Indian Council of Medical Research and Bharat Biotech (which produces Covaxin) was not made public.
Additionally, former chief economic adviser Arvind Subramanian said that India's vaccination strategy is "complicated and politicised", and asserted that it is the Centre, and not states, that should bear the "fiscal costs of vaccines".
Raches Ella, project lead COVID-19 Vaccines at Bharat Biotech said that there were nine publications on Covaxin so far and the efficacy paper on Phase-3 trials would be the tenth one
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