Centre defends liberalised pricing of COVID vaccines

To incentivise manufacturers to scale up production and attract new ones

The Centre on Monday informed the Kerala High Court that its new liberalised pricing and accelerated national COVID-19 vaccination strategy was aimed at incentivising vaccine manufacturers to rapidly scale up their production and attract new vaccine manufacturers.

In a statement filed in response to a public interest litigation challenging the liberalised pricing policy, the Centre submitted that the strategy would make pricing, procurement, and administration of vaccines more flexible and ensure augmented vaccine production as well as wider availability of vaccines in the country.

The Centre added that tightly controlling the price of vaccines may cause difficulty in securing adequate and multiple vaccine supplies, especially from offshore manufacturers. In the current scenario, where vaccination was a critical tool for prevention and mitigation of the pandemic, it was only advisable to allow vaccines additionally in the open market.

In fact, under the new vaccine strategy, though each State government could procure vaccines, the Centre had, by conducting informal consultations with the vaccine manufactures, ensured that the price of vaccine was uniform for all the States so as to avoid one State buying vaccine at a higher price than the other.

The Centre also submitted that it had facilitated and supported two public sector undertakings such as Indian Immunologicals, Hyderabad, and Haffkine, Mumbai, to produce Covaxin which is licensed by Bharat Biotech International Ltd. The Centre’s Department of Biotechnology was also providing financial support for the same.

The other Indian manufacturer, Serum Institute of India, was producing the COVID vaccine Covishield in the country under licence from foreign vaccine manufacturer AstraZeneca. Therefore, Covishield vaccine cannot be given to other manufacturers for further production without licence from the parent company.

The Centre said as on May 22, a total 81.81 lakh doses of COVID vaccines had been made available to the State free of cost for vaccinating healthcare and front-line workers and those above 45 years. A total 3.97 lakh doses had also been received by the State for vaccinating those in the 18-44 year population.

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