Addressing the debate over the pricing of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine locally manufactured under the brand name Covishield, Serum Institute of India’s chief executive officer Adar Poonawalla said on Saturday that comparing global vaccine prices with India was “inaccurate comparison”.
“Government procurement for countrywide immunization programs in all countries including India has been at a far lower price as the volumes are very large. For instance, based on the market conditions, prices of many vaccines in the private market including our pneumococcal vaccine are sold at a higher free-economy price, whereas for the government it is almost 1/3rd of the free market price,” he said.
SII was selling Covishield to the government of India at ₹150 per dose, and recently announced its prices for state governments, and private hospitals and institutions, which are ₹400 and ₹600 per dose respectively. SII was criticised for keeping the per-dose price of Covishield higher in the Indian market than the global market.
“Furthermore, there was an inaccurate comparison done between the global prices of the vaccine with India. COVISHIELD is the most affordable COVID-19 vaccine available in the market today. The initial prices were kept very low globally as it was based on advance funding given by those countries for at-risk vaccine manufacturing. The initial supply price of COVISHIELD for all government immunization programme, including India, has been the lowest,” he added.
Poonawalla also said that the current situation was extremely dire as the virus was constantly mutating, which meant that the public remained at risk.
“Identifying the uncertainty, we have to ensure sustainability as we must be able to invest in scaling up and expanding our capacity to fight the pandemic and save lives,” he said, and adding that only a limited portion of SII’s volume will be sold to private hospitals at ₹600 per dose.
“The price of the vaccine is still lower than a lot of other medical treatment and essentials required to treat COVID-19 and other life-threatening disease. Furthermore, in the interest of public health, it is important for the market to open-up for other vaccines from across the world. This will accelerate and advance the immunization program of our country. We hope this lay to rest the confusion for which we are happy to in a fully transparent manner explain our various pricing policies,” he added.