Coronavirus Pandemic

Covid in India: Health activists concerned about potential cost of vaccines

Web report/Mumbai
Filed on April 22, 2021
Photo: Reuters

Those reluctant to stand in long queues outside public hospitals may have to shell out more.

While the Indian government liberalised the Covid-19 vaccine segment by allowing existing manufacturers flexibility in setting the price, there is still a lot of confusion about the final cost of this essential medicine.

Many health activists are worried that the new system would make the vaccines dearer, and those between 18 and 45 — basically those not entitled to free vaccination — will end up paying high prices. Healthcare and frontline workers and those aged 45 and above will be entitled to free vaccines.

From May 1, when all those above 18 will be entitled to a vaccine shot, state governments and private hospitals can procure vaccines directly from manufacturers and pay the price that they demand.

Producers will have to allocate 50 per cent of their vaccines to the central government and the rest can be sold to the state governments, private hospitals and in the open market. Of course, the price for state governments will be far lower than those for private hospitals.

The centre will continue to allocate vaccines to states and union territories from its share, depending on their needs. At present, vaccines are free for all, but some are sold for people above 45 with a price cap of Rs250 in private hospitals.

From May 1, these hospitals will be charged more by the manufacturers and they will pass on the price to consumers who opt to get vaccinated there.

Indeed, many people are reluctant to stand in long queues outside public hospitals, fearing that they will be exposed to the virus at these places. These will not mind paying the extra price for a quicker vaccine shot, many in the pharma industry believe.

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