New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: Amid the controversy over the price uniformity of the Serum Institute of India's (SII) Covishield vaccine against the COVID-19 to be administered from May 1, the Central government on Saturday clarified that the Centre will continue to procure both the COVID-19 vaccines -- Bharat Biotech's Covaxin and SII's Covishield -- at Rs 150 per dose from the manufacturer. The government also said that it will continue to provide the vaccines to state governments free of cost.

However, the government's clarification does not mention anything about the higher prices of Covishield vaccine set by the manufacturer -- SII -- for state governments and private hospitals for the third phase of the vaccination drive starting from May 1 covering all adults above 18 years of age.

The Ministry of Health today tweeted, "#Unite2FightCorona It is clarified that Govt of India's procurement price for both #COVID19 vaccines remains Rs 150 per dose. GOI procured doses will continue to be provided TOTALLY FREE to States. @PMOIndia @drharshvardhan @AshwiniKChoubey @DDNewslive @PIB_India @mygovindia."

The Health Ministry's tweet came hours after Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, by sharing a newspaper article which reads 'Serum's Rs 600/dose for Covishield in pvt hospital is its highest rate the world over, and tweeted, "COVISHIELD @ Rs 400 for new government procurement is higher than what govts of US, UK, EU, Saudi, Bangladesh & SA pay. Made in India & highest price for India? By SII's own admission profits are made even at Rs150. Prices must be renegotiated @PMOIndia @nsitharaman @drharshvardhan."

The Centre had earlier this month had announced the expansion of India's inoculation drive from May 1, 2021, covering all adults aged 18 or above. However, the announcement also included that the vaccine manufacturer will have the last say on the price of the vaccine for the third phase. The announcement provoked protests from several chief ministers of states and opposition leaders.

At present, the Centre is buying both Covaxin and Covishield at Rs 150 from the manufacturers and distributing them free of cost to state governments. In the new policy, the Centre has said that state governments and private hospitals can directly buy the vaccine doses from the manufacturers, who are free to supply 50 per cent of the doses to states and in the open market. The government also said that it will continue to administer the COVID-19 vaccine free of cost to existing beneficiaries -- health workers, frontline workers and all above 45.

Following the announcement by the government, the Serum Institute of India announced the price of its Covishield vaccine. According to the new rates, the vaccine will be provided at Rs 150 to the Central government, while it will be provided at Rs 400 to state governments and at Rs 600 for private hospitals.

This means that a Covid shot will be cheapest at any central government facility but at state government centres and private hospitals, people have to pay more. Meanwhile, Bharat Biotech is yet to announce its new rates for Covaxin for the third phase of India's vaccination drive starting from May 1.

Posted By: Talibuddin Khan