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Serum's differential pricing of Covishield draws flak

Serums differential pricing of Covishield draws flak

NEW DELHI: Several states and policymakers flagged caution against the differential pricing of the Covishield vaccine by the Serum Institute of India. They have questioned the basis of the pricing by the Serum for its vaccine.

Yesterday, the Serum had announced the two price tags – Rs 400 per dose for states and Rs 600 per dose for private hospitals –for Covishield while it sells the same to the Centre for Rs 150 per dose.

"It (differential pricing for the Centre and states) is stupid, inexplicable. I don't know what's going on," said a top policymaker linked to the establishment, on the condition of anonymity.

In a press statement, the Serum Institute said, "For the next two months, we will address the limited capacity by scaling up the vaccine production. Going ahead, 50% of our capacities will be served to the Government of India's vaccination program, and the remaining 50% will be for the State governments and private hospitals."

However, this has received harsher criticism from many states and policymakers within the establishment as there is zero clarity on how or on what bases the vaccine would be distributed among the states and on what criteria will Serum distinguish large private hospitals and small nursing homes.

Responding to these questions, the Chief Secretary of a state, said. "Given the nature of the country's federal structure, a differential pricing for the public good is unjustifiable. That, too, for a vaccine being produced under EUA (Emergency Use Authorisation). What about the spirit of cooperative federalism?"

As there is very little clarity on the intersection distribution of vaccine it is expected that Union health Ministry will step in to give more clarification on the matter.

Meanwhile many states have expressed their anger about the laid back approach followed by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

"Yes, of course. We are astonished… the Government of India and the state government being treated as separate for purposes of a vaccine in times of pandemic. Are we less deserving entities?" said a senior official in a state as per Indian Express reports.

Another senior official in a BJP-ruled state said, ideally, the Central government should intervene, and set objective and transparent criteria for Serum Institute to allocate vaccine doses to states.

"Only pricing can be left to the manufacturer, the distribution should be fair," the official said. A clear fortnightly timetable on the allocation of doses from May 1onwards would help states plan in deciding which segments of the population to prioritise for vaccination," the official said.

The Secretary-level officer, however, contended that intervention on pricing or distribution was possible only when vaccination was rationed. "But in a dual market system, with open market sales now being allowed, how can pricing be controlled," he said.

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TAGS:Serum Institute of India Centre States Cooperative federalism 
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