Serum Institute of India CEO Adar Poonawalla on Wednesday said that the company has decided to reduce the price of its COVID-19 vaccine by Rs 100.
“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,” he tweeted.
Many, including health experts and opposition leaders, had questioned the difference in prices of the vaccine as the government opened the vaccination drive to all those above 18 years of age from May 1.
Serum Institute of India had been selling the vaccines at Rs 150 (plus GST) for the Central government and later announced its prices for the vaccination drive starting May 1 — Rs 400 for the state government and Rs 600 for private hospitals. Bharat Biotech has fixed the rate at Rs 600 for Covaxin for state governments and Rs 1200 for private hospitals.
The Union government has been procuring Covishield at Rs 200 so far from SII. The institute had earlier claimed in a statement that, “Covishield is the most affordable COVID-19 vaccine available in the market today.”
Explaining the lower prices at which the same vaccine was supplied to the government, SII’s statement said, “Government procurement for countrywide immunisation programmes in all countries, including India, has been at a far lower price as the volumes are very large.”
Serum Institute had defended the high price by stating that it was to ensure sustainability. They had said they will need to invest in scaling up and expanding the capacity to fight the pandemic. The constant mutation of the virus they claimed had made it a dire situation.
As cases in the country continue to climb at alarming rates, the government had announced that vaccinations for all above 18 years would begin on May 1. Under the third phase of the national vaccination drive commencing next month, the vaccine manufacturers would supply 50 per cent of their monthly Central Drugs Laboratory (CDL) released doses to the central government and would be free to supply the remaining 50 per cent doses to state governments and in the open market, the government had said.
The Supreme Court had on April 27 asked the Union government to explain the difference in prices of the vaccines. It had also asked the Union government as to how it was going to meet the sudden surge in demand of vaccines from May 1 when vaccination for all above 18 years of age would begin.