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Coronavirus impact: Face masks become costlier as demand shoots up

All Food and Drug License Holders Foundation (AFDLHF) has estimated a nearly 100 percent jump in prices in India.

February 17, 2020 / 05:44 PM IST
Coronavirus (Representative image)

Coronavirus (Representative image)

The outbreak of Coronavirus has led to the rise in demand for protective masks and sanitisers in India. And with rising demand, price of masks has shot up multiple times.

People are rushing to medical stores to get their hands on either N95 or a simple surgical face mask to prevent themselves from contracting the virus.

"In view of the current situation in China, we have witnessed 10 times & more of growth in demand for face masks, particularly respiratory masks, protective suits, sterile surgical gloves, safety goggles, to curb the spread of Coronavirus," said Vivek Tiwari, Founder, and Chief Executive Officer, Medikabazaar, a B2B online platform for medical supplies and equipment.

Face masks reduce infected persons' ability to spread the virus in the environment.

Tiwari said that in the last few weeks, they have received multiple queries from China, Japan, Singapore, and from within India for face masks. To meet the growing demand, the company has increased the procurement of masks items many folds.

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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 growing demand is evident from the data shared by All Food and Drug License Holders Foundation (AFDLHF), which represents 7,000 pharmaceutical suppliers from across the country.

The foundation estimated a nearly 100 percent jump in the face mask market in India.

As per the estimates, the demand for protective face masks in the country has shot up from 0.6 to 0.7 million masks to up to 1.2 million masks in a month.

In line with face masks, medical store owners agreed that the demand for sanitizer have also surged in the Indian market.

"Before the outbreak of Corona Virus we used to sell around 30-40 sanitizer bottles a month, but now the number has shot up to 100-200 bottles a month," owner of a well-known pharmacy chain said.

Coronavirus is a deadly respiratory virus that originated in China's Wuhan which has killed more than 1770 people and has infected more than 70,000 in the country.

At least 25 countries have reported confirmed cases of the virus, including the US, India, Japan, and the UK. Major airlines have suspended flights to and from China in an attempt to stop the spread of the virus.

According to experts, although disposable face masks block large particles from entering your mouth, a more tight-fitting N95 respirator mask is far more effective at protecting from airborne illnesses.

N95 face mask filters at least 95 percent of airborne particles.

Price impact

The wholesaler of protective masks is capitalizing on the rising demand and have shot up the prices of masks.  According to a source, the masks which was sold to hospitals at 90 paise (wholesale price) is now being sold at Rs 3-3.50.

The average cost of manufacturing these surgical face masks is only around 40-45 paise, while that for N95 mask is about Rs 10-12. The N95 mask is now sold at Rs 400.

With inputs from Viswanath Pilla
Himadri Buch
first published: Feb 17, 2020 05:20 pm

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