Why Covid vaccine price for 18-44 age group in India’s private hospitals is highest in the world

Surprisingly, the price of the vaccine is nearly six times the cost of Rs 250, which people of 45 and above give for the single dose.

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India is battling against the second wave of coronavirus with an aim of inoculating people of all age groups in the least possible time. Presently, two types of vaccines, Covishield and Covaxin, are being administered. However, the prices of these vaccines vary for states and private hospitals.

Recently, the third phase of vaccination has started in India in which people of the 18-44 age group will get the dose. The price of one-shot ranges between Rs 700 to Rs 1500 for the people falling in this age group, as per the data available on CoWIN portal.

Surprisingly, the price of the vaccine is nearly six times the cost of Rs 250, which people of 45 and above give for the single dose. This also makes private hospitals of India scripting a new record of the highest vaccine price in the world.

For the Covishield developed by the Serum Institute of India (SII), private hospitals are charging between Rs 700-900 for one shot while the Bharat Biotech produced Covaxin cost starts from Rs 1,250 which goes up to Rs 1,500.

The CoWIN website has revealed another truth that the vaccination drive ongoing in private hospitals is being conducted by four big corporate hospital groups- Apollo, Fortis, Max, and Manipal.

It may be noted here that there are countries where the vaccination drive is open free for the public. India is among the few countries where people have to pay to get their jab and notably, the cost of vaccines in the private market is the highest in the world at almost $12 for Covishield and $17 for Covaxin.

When the vaccination began in India, the Centre was procuring both the vaccines at Rs 150 per dose to further supply them to the states and private hospitals. Then the private hospitals were directed to charge Rs 100 to administer the job to which they agreed however, it could not continue till long. Now, non-public hospitals are charging Rs 250-300 per dose of Covishield.

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According to the report published in the ToI, Max Hospital spokesperson said that gross price of Covishield was Rs 660-670 inclusive of GST, transportation, and storage costs.  However, its 5-6% wastage due to breakage makes it cost Rs 710-715 per dose.

“The vaccine administration charges include hand sanitizer, PPE kit for staff, biomedical waste disposal, etc which comes to Rs 170-180. The net cost of Rs 900,” the spokesperson was quoted as saying by the publication.

Perhaps, it yet remains vague that whether the private hospitals are procuring the vaccines at the price capped by both manufacturers. In April, Bharat Biotech declared that private hospitals will get the vaccine at Rs 1200 per dose which was double the states’ procurement price. While the SII announced Rs 600 per dose for private hospitals, double the states' price.

The difference of price has put the public health activists in the state of dilemma and they have also warned of diversion of stocks to the private sector hence, becoming increasing revenue of the vaccine producers.

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Amidst the price difference, many states are witnessing the shortage of anti-viral drug to continue the vaccination drive however, vaccine producers are claiming that this shortage might continue to linger on till June as it would take time to scale up the production. Due to the prevailing condition, the vaccine makers are denying to take the orders of the smaller health facilities.

As per the publication’s report, various small hospitals tried to place the orders for Covishiled, however, they were denied as the company informed them they would first complete the outstanding orders from the Centre and the states followed by the private hospitals. Presently, SII is not taking up the latest order, as per the ToI report.