No Universal Vaccination

The Union government’s decision to deregulate vaccine prices in the midst of the pandemic is a generous gift to private vaccine companies. This gift is in addition to the Union Government’s decision to provide new credit lines of Rs 3,000 crore to the Serum Institute of India and Rs 1,500 crore to the Bharat Biotech to help them expand capacities. Both companies are  also  likely to be among the recipients of the Union Government’s research and development grants worth Rs 900 crore under the Covid Suraksha Mission.

Regardless of such generosity, the vaccine producers insisted on their right to make super profits, and the Union government has succumbed to the pressure.

Until now, the Union Government has been supplying vaccines to states free of cost. The Serum Institute, which produces a vaccine named Covishield, and Bharat Biotech, which makes Covaxin,  were selling their products to the Union Government at subsidised prices.

Excluding taxes, Covishield was sold at Rs 150 per dose while Covaxin was sold at Rs 206 per dose.

However, both these companies were unhappy at being asked by the Union Government to sell at these subsidised prices. They and other industry bodies were lobbying for the price ceiling to be removed and for the freedom to sell vaccines in the open market.

It should be noted that even the subsidised price of Covishield and Covaxin provided a normal profit per dose to both firms. Serum Institute CEO Adar Poonwala confirmed this in an interview to NDTV on April 6.

Modi is more than willing to reward  them, after all he is at their service. The liberalised price will vary from brand to brand, from state to state. Even as the Modi regime makes claims about its policy to promote generics, the Vax is thrown into a mode where private manufacturers, suppliers, and corporate sector hospitals will mint huge, unregulated profits.

Russia’s Sputnik V, to be distributed in India by Dr Reddy’s, is reported to be imported shortly. For its price in India, it will continue to be the same as Sputnik’s global price—$10 (~Rs 750) per dose, or roughly Rs 1,500 for both doses. The price could be lower once production starts in India. But it will be still unaffordable to the poor.

The Government does not use its authority, but allows the pharma companies to have a field day, at this time of a pandemic, and Depression when people are deprived of earnings. It is friendly to corporate, not people. It buys at a higher price, and even if it supplies part of it free of cost, it is at the expense of public exchequer, the people at large. ooo


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Vol. 54, No. 6, Aug 8 - 14, 2021