An overwhelming majority of countries are not making people pay from their own pocket for Covid vaccination. India is not only one of the few exceptions, the cost of vaccines in the private market in India is among the highest — almost $12 for getting a shot of Covishield and $17 for Covaxin.
Initially, the Centre was procuring both vaccines at Rs 150 and 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. However, many hospitals are effectively charging Rs 250-300 per shot of Covishield as vaccination charges.
A Max hospital spokesperson told TOI that the landed price of Covishield was Rs 660-670, including GST and transportation and storage costs. There is 5-6% wastage 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 of Rs 900,” she said.
It is not clear if the procurement price of 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 warned of diversion of stocks to the private sector which would bring in greater profits for vaccine makers.
Several state governments have been complaining that they do not have enough doses to continue the drive. Delhi, which is administering one lakh doses per day, has stock only for four to five days according to its CM. The Maharashtra health minister announced on Saturday that the SII CEO had told him the company would not be able to supply Covishield to the state till May 26. In Telangana, due to non-availability of stocks, the government is continuing the vaccination drive only for those above 45 years. Kerala too had complained that it had received just 3 lakh doses against its request for one crore doses (75 lakh Covishield and 25 lakh Covaxin doses).
Smaller hospitals too are being refused when they try to place orders. 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,” said Dr T Sundararaman, global coordinator of the People’s Health Movement.