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Covid-19 vaccination program – Phase 3: Covaxin prices announced

The developer and manufacturer of Covid-19 vaccine Covaxin, Bharat Biotech, today announced the prices to be charged from state governments and the private sector in the third phase of the Covid-19 vaccination program in the country. The company stated that the Covaxin price for the state governments will be Rs 600, and the price for private hospitals will be Rs 1200. The company has set the export price of the vaccine in the range of $15 to $20, which equals around Rs 1120 to Rs 1500 in Indian rupees.

Bharat Biotech was supplying the vaccine to the union govt at Rs 150 per dose, which is given free of charge by the govt of India. The company told that it has kept more than 50% of its capacity for central govt supply.

The company stated the prices as per the order published by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on 19th April opening up the vaccination for anyone above 18 years of age. The govt had said that while the central govt will continue to vaccinate people above 45 years of age free of charge, state governments and private hospitals will be allowed the buy vaccines to vaccinate the adult population of the country. The ministry had asked the vaccine companies to transparently inform the price they will charge from state govts and the open market before 1st May, from when the third phase will begin.

The govt order had said that companies will sell 50% of their vaccine to the union govt, which will be used to vaccinate 45+ people all over the country, while the rest 50% will be sold to states and the open market.

Serum Institute of India, the maker of the Covid-19 vaccine COVISHIELD developed by Oxford University-AstraZeneca, had declared the prices on 21st April. The company had set the state govt price at Rs 400 and the private sector price at Rs 600.

Indian left-liberals and opposition parties, who have been administering a campaign against Indian vaccine makers for the last several months, have already slammed Serum Institute, blaming it for setting high prices for state govts and making undue profit out of a pandemic. In light of that situation, it is certain that Bharat Biotech will face even greater opposition, as it has set the prices higher than SII. Furthermore, the company already pulled more criticism, as the Congress party and others had claimed that its vaccine is insecure and not active.

Still, it was expected that Covaxin price will be higher than Covishield, because as SII is making a vaccine developed by Oxford-AstraZeneca, Bharat Biotech developed the Covaxin itself. This means the company has made large investments in developing the vaccine, apart from increasing its capacity to produce a higher number of doses. The company also had to run an extended clinical trial program in India to get the vaccine accepted. The Covishield main trial was done by AstraZeneca, while SII conducted only a small bridge trial in India as required by law.

Besides that, the Serum Institute of India enjoys a vast economy of scale, as it is the world’s largest vaccine producer. The company also has a much large order book for Covishield, not only from the Indian government, but also from several foreign nations, and the COVAX, the Covid-19 vaccine drive by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, and the World Health Organization.

Because of these reasons, SII is able to offer a much cheaper price which Bharat Biotech may not be able to without suffering losses.

Bharat Biotech added in its statement stating the prices that Covaxin is an inactivated and highly purified vaccine, which makes its manufacturing process expensive due to low yields. It said that all costs towards product development, making facilities and clinical trials were deployed primarily using internal funding and resources of the company. It said that recovering costs is essential in the journey of innovation towards other vaccines such as Intranasal Covid-19, Chikungunya, Zika, Cholera, and others.


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