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Centre asks Serum Institute, Bharat Biotech to lower COVID-19 vaccine prices

The SII has priced the Covishield vaccine at Rs 400 for states and Rs 600 private hospitals, whereas, the Bharat Biotech has decided to sell the jabs at Rs 600 to states and Rs 1,200 to private hospitals.

April 26, 2021 / 09:24 PM IST
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The central government has asked vaccine manufacturers Serum Institute of India (SII) and Bharat Biotech Limited to lower the prices of their respective vaccines, news agency PTI reported citing official sources on April 26.

The SII has priced the Covishield vaccine at Rs 400 for states and Rs 600 private hospitals, whereas, Bharat Biotech has decided to sell the jabs at Rs 600 to states and Rs 1,200 to private hospitals.

According to CNBC TV 18, Centre decided to reach out to the SII and Bharat Biotech on their vaccine prices after a demand was raised by the state governments.

Top central government offices, including the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), Department of Pharmaceuticals, Union Health Ministry, National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) and Niti Aayog have requested the companies to revise the rates in an internal communication, the channel exclusively reported.

Also Read: Serum Institute issues clarification on Covishield pricing, says govt procurement is at 'far lower price'

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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The Centre's request to lower the prices, as claimed by reports, comes ahead of the expansion of the inoculation drive from May 1. All citizens aged above 18 would be eligible to receive the doses under the next phase of vaccination drive.

On April 20, the central government had announced the liberalisation of the vaccination policy, with the vaccine manufacturers being allowed to sell 50 percent of their production directly to the state governments and private hospitals.

The vaccine makers were asked to pre-declare a rate for the doses that would be sold to the states and private hospitals.

A number of state governments had subsequently reached out to the Centre, asking it to ensure uniformity in the prices levied to the central and state governments. At present, the Centre is procuring the vaccines at Rs 150 per dose.

"In view of the increasing outbreak of COVID-19 infection in the country, the vaccine rates have been increased by Serum Institute with the aim of earning extra profits," news agency ANI quoted Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel as stating in a letter which he wrote to Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on April 24.
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