After changing its vaccine procurement policy, the Central government is ready to renegotiate and finalise the prices of Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin and Serum Institute’s Covishield.
A senior government official said Rs 150 is the current price for both vaccines, is yet to be decided under the new system. The officials also said that the Centre is finalising the contours of the pricing.
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that the Centre would buy 75% of doses from vaccine makers, including 25% of the state quota and give it for free to state governments.
This is aimed at facilitating free vaccination for all above 18 years of age from June 21, which is likely to cost the exchequer an additional Rs 15,000 crore as compared to the Budget allocation of Rs 35,000 crore.
When the Centre began vaccination in January, it procured 11 million doses of Covishield at Rs 200 each excluding taxes and about 5.5 million doses of Covaxin at Rs 206 each excluding taxes. However, the prices were later negotiated downwards to Rs 150 per dose.
Until April, private hospitals had to procure vaccines through the government, which allowed the Centre to cap the prices at Rs 250 per dose for both Covishield and Covaxin.
In April, manufacturers were allowed to fix their own prices for states and private healthcare facilities, following the decision to decentralise vaccine procurement. The SII and Bharat Biotech initially priced their vaccines at Rs 400 and Rs 600 respectively for states and Rs 600 and Rs 1,200 respectively for private facilities. Following backlash, the procurement prices for states were revised to Rs 300 per dose of Covishield and Rs 400 per dose of Covaxin.
The states, which initially had to compete with private hospitals for vaccine supplies, were later allowed to access an exclusive 25% of the vaccines produced at the revised rates. The Centre still had access to 50 per cent of the doses, while the remaining 25% was opened to private hospitals.
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The Centre had filed affidavit filed in response to a suo motu petition in the Supreme Court on the distribution of essential supplies and services during the pandemic. Citing concerns raised during the proceedings the apex court had said that the Liberalised Vaccination Policy leaves the State/UT governments to fend for themselves, rather than the Central government acting on behalf of the entire nation.
The dichotomy in pricing was flagged by the Supreme Court on May 31.