Private sector hospitals in India are now charging between Rs 700 to Rs 1,500 per shot of COVID vaccine for the 18-44 age group people as per data available on the CoWIN website.
This is nearly six times the cost of Rs 250 they charge the people of 45 plus age group for a single shot of the vaccine.
For Covishield manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII), hospitals are charging between Rs 700-900 while for one shot of Covaxin manufactured by Bharat Biotech (BB), the cost goes up to Rs 1,250-1,500.
According to CoWIN website, bulk of private sector vaccination right now is done by four big corporate hospital groups – Apollo, Max, Fortis and Manipal, as per a report carried by Times Now News.
It is noteworthy that while a majority of the countries are not charging their citizens for inoculation, India is not only one of the few exceptions but the cost of vaccines in the private market in India is also among the highest – almost $12 for getting a shot of Covishield and $17 for Covaxin, as per a report by a leading media house.
In the first and second phase, the Centre was procuring each dose of both vaccines at Rs 150 and was them supplying to state governments and private hospitals. The private sector was allowed to charge Rs 100 per dose as vaccination charges. Private hospitals had agreed that Rs 100 would cover the cost of administering the vaccine.
But now private hospitals are effectively charging Rs 250-300 per shot of Covishield as vaccination charges. A media report cited a Max Hospital spokesperson saying that the landed price of Covishield was Rs 660-670, including GST, transportation and storage costs. Also there is a wastage of 5-6% due to breakage, and thus the cost of vaccine per inoculation is Rs 710-715, she added.
“The vaccine administration charges include hand sanitiser, PPE kit for staff, biomedical waste disposal etc which comes to Rs 170-180. The net cost is Rs 900,” the publication quoted her as saying.
However, it is still not clear if the procurement price of private hospitals is the same as the prices declared by the two vaccine companies. For private hospitals, Bharat Biotech had announced a price of Rs 1,200 per dose of Covaxin while SII had announced Rs 600 per dose, in both cases double the price for states. With such a huge price difference, public health activists have warned of diversion of stocks to the private sector which would bring in greater profits for vaccine makers.
Many state government have complained that they don’t have enough stocks to continue their vaccination drive as vaccine makers have expressed their inability to ramp up supply before June. Similarly, smaller hospitals are being refused when they try to place orders.
According to media reports, many hospitals that sought to place orders for Covishield said they had been told the company had pending orders from Centre and states and would have to channelize them first followed by orders already placed by private hospitals. The company told them it was not taking any further orders at present, they said.
“The new vaccine policy had gone out of its way to ensure profiteering for a small group of hospitals. To open up vaccines for free market pricing by the private sector indicates that inequity is almost like a principle in this policy. So even within the private sector it is just a small section of corporate hospitals which are being favoured.
The policy has nothing to do with universal vaccination and is in fact going to make universal vaccination more difficult,” the daily quoted Dr T Sundararaman, global coordinator of the People’s Health Movement, as saying.
Adar Poonawalla’s Serum institute overcharging Africa
South Africa will have to buy doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine at a price nearly 2.5 times higher than most European countries, the country’s health ministry has said. The African continent’s worst virus-hit country has ordered at least 1.5m shots of the vaccine from the Serum Institute of India (SII), expected in January and February.
A senior health official on Thursday told AFP those doses would cost $5.25 (€4.32) each – nearly two and a half times the amount paid by most European countries. European Union members will pay $2.16 (€1.78) for AstraZeneca’s shots, according to information leaked by a Belgian minister on Twitter. AstraZeneca France told AFP in November that its shots would be capped at €2.50 (around $3) per dose “to provide vaccines to the widest population, with as fair access as possible”.