With India opening up Covid-19 vaccinations for all citizens over 18 from May 1, Serum Institute of India (SII) on Wednesday said it would price its vaccine Covishield at Rs 400 per dose for the central and state governments and Rs 600 per dose for private hospitals. At present, the Pune-based firm sells the vaccine at Rs 150 per shot to the Centre.
These are the prices for institutional sales, and not the maximum retail price, which will be announced later.
Hospitals say they are awaiting more clarity on the matter and the final price to be borne by the consumer would be known in a day or two. Typically, pharmaceutical firms sell medicines to hospitals through a trade channel, which has a 10-15 per cent margin.
SII Chief Executive Officer Adar Poonawalla told a television channel: “We are losing money at the central government’s mandated price of Rs 150 per dose. We have to pay 50 per cent of the price to AstraZeneca as royalty.”
SII is in the process of delivering the 100-million doses order the Centre placed with it in March-end; about 30-40 million doses remain to be delivered. The Centre also gave a suppliers’ credit of Rs 3,000 crore to SII recently. At Rs 400 per dose, this works out to be around 75 million doses.
Poonawalla has said the signing of contracts with private hospitals will start in a couple of weeks and the supply by the third or fourth week of May.
SII said the vaccine prices were competitive as American vaccines were priced above Rs 1,500 per dose in the private market, while Russian and Chinese vaccines cost over Rs 750 per dose. “For the next two months, we will address the limited capacity by scaling up vaccine production. Going ahead, 50 per cent of our capacities will be served to the Government of India’s vaccination programme, and the remaining 50 per cent of the capacity will be for the state governments and private hospitals,” the firm said in a statement.
Joy Chakraborty, chief operating officer of Mumbai’s Hinduja Hospital, said the higher vaccine price could impact demand. “Currently we are vaccinating around 500 persons daily. We would aim to double the figure, but it depends on factors like demand, adequate vaccine availability, and infrastructure,” he said.
“We have tie-ups with a few corporate houses for vaccinating their employees in the age group of 45-60 years. We will explore more tie-ups. We will be able to carry out vaccination at multiple locations if corporates provide necessary infrastructure at their offices or plants. This way we would be able to increase the pace of vaccination,” he added.
SII is now making 65-70 million doses of Covishield at its Pune plant every month and has plans to ramp it up to 100 million. The world’s largest vaccine maker by volumes also said that owing to the “complexity and the urgency” of the situation, it is challenging to supply it independently to each corporate entity. “We would urge all corporate and private individuals to access the vaccines through the state-facilitated machinery and private health systems. After 4-5 months, vaccines will be made available in retail and free trade,” the company said.