The Serum Institute of India (SII) says it would sell the AstraZeneca vaccine to state governments around the country at 400 rupees ($ 5.30) per dose and to private hospitals at 600 rupees ($ 7.95), the central government continuing to receive the vaccine at 150 rupees ($ 2).
“In addition, due to the complexity and urgency of the situation, it is difficult to provide it independently to each corporate entity,” he said in a statement Wednesday.
“We urge all businesses and individuals to access vaccines through state-facilitated mechanisms and private health systems.
SII, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, sells the AstraZeneca vaccine in India under the Covishield brand.
IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT pic.twitter.com/bTsMs8AKth
– SerumInstituteIndia (@SerumInstIndia) April 21, 2021
On Monday, the Indian government announced that it will open its vaccination campaign to all adults from May 1, with 50% of vaccine doses reserved for the federal government and the remainder distributed among states and private hospitals.
IBS announcement came as new coronavirus infections and deaths set new records in India.
Authorities have recorded around 295,000 new cases and 2,023 deaths in the past 24 hours, according to data from the Ministry of Health. The two were the highest totals ever recorded in a single day.
As soon as the SII announced its prices, a senior politician and former federal minister from the main opposition party in Congress criticized the government, saying the different prices for states “will drain the state’s finances already. in trouble”.
“We demand a nation, a price for the central and national government,” Jairam Ramesh tweeted Wednesday.
The central government will continue to pay Rs 150 per dose for Covishield. State governments will now be charged Rs 400 per dose. It is not cooperative federalism. This will bleed the finances of the already struggling state. Atrocious!
We demand a nation, a single price for central and state governments. pic.twitter.com/YiOIWosNee
– Jairam Ramesh (@Jairam_Ramesh) April 21, 2021
The main Congress leader, Rahul Gandhi, had also accused the government of pursuing “discrimination” and not a “distribution strategy” when it came to vaccinating all adults.
“No free vaccines for 18-45 year olds. Intermediaries entered without price controls. No vaccine guarantee for the weakest sections. Indian Government Vaccine Discrimination – No Distribution – Strategy! Gandhi tweeted on Tuesday.
Health experts have also expressed concern over the possibility for millions of India’s poor to be vaccinated.
“Everyone, especially low-income families, should be covered… They should not be deprived of the opportunity to get vaccinated because people from high-income families can go and buy in the market. It is absolutely important that no one is deprived of the chance to get the vaccine just for the sake of affordability, ”K Srinath, president of the Public Health Foundation of India, told Al Jazeera.
India launched its vaccination campaign in mid-January and has administered more than 127 million vaccines so far.
However, some local authorities have run out of supplies and India has curbed exports of AstraZeneca shot.
“At the moment, there are not enough vaccines to meet current needs. Although the Indian government has indicated that from May 1 it can vaccinate [all above the age of 18], in my opinion, it will take a little longer because these [vaccine] you have to make arrangements first, ”Lalit Kant, former head of the epidemiology department at the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR), told Al Jazeera.
Meanwhile, India’s Bharat Biotech announced on Tuesday that it was increasing production of its local Covaxin vaccine to 700 million doses per year.
Covaxin is administered alongside AstraZeneca firing in India, while Sputnik V. from Russia has also been approved.
J&J requests approval for a local trial
In a related development, the Johnson & Johnson company said on Tuesday it was looking to conduct a local clinical trial in India for its single-dose COVID-19 vaccine, which was suspended in the United States last week as a result of reports of rare blood clots.
The company said it had submitted an application to the Indian drug regulator – the Drugs Controller General of India – asking for approval of the “transitional” safety and immunogenicity study for its vaccine.
The global rollout of the single-dose vaccine, seen as a vital weapon in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, was rocked when U.S. federal health agencies recommended last Tuesday that its use be suspended.
J & J’s request in India, which the company has said must comply with local regulations, comes as the country grapples with a second wave of COVID-19 cases that has severely strained its health system and caused oxygen and drug shortages.
Last week, India said it would speed up emergency approvals for COVID-19 vaccines made abroad, a move that would exempt companies from conducting “bridging” trials for their vaccines.
Johnson & Johnson did not immediately give more details on the process.
Bilal Kuchay contributed to this report from New Delhi, India