Fishy vaccine prices?

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The manner in which the Serum Institute of India (SII) has announced the prices it would be charging the government and private hospitals henceforth seems to be attracting the attention of one and many recently. Notably, SII recently disclosed its revised prices of the vaccine for the government and private hospitals for the largest phase of vaccinating all adults from May 1. As per the announcement, SII will charge the government a cost of Rs 400 per dose and Rs 600 per dose to private hospitals. It also informed that it would be expanding its vaccine production capacity by 50 per cent for the Union government and then sell the rest to states and private hospitals.
While the state governments will ensure that each of its residents get the vaccine, the union government will itself be distributing the vaccines to major government hospitals and needy states. Any requirements exceeding this arrangement will have to be purchased from SII by the respective state government from the state’s budget. However, the cost quoted by SII seems to be disproportionate to any law of economics. Many argue that the cost of production
should logically come down when the demand is going to an all-time high. With India finally moving ahead to vaccinate all the adults from May 1, it may be easily labelled as the largest demand of vaccines to SII. Notably, SII, as the world’s biggest vaccine producer, can manufacture the vaccine at a lower cost than its own production facilities in the developed countries. Adar Poonawalla, CEO, SII himself stated that he was not selling the vaccines at a loss to the Indian government. It may be mentioned here that Poonawalla had asked for a grant of around Rs 3,000 crore which the government is yet to give in. Until now the SII has been selling the vaccines to the union government at a cost of Rs 150 per dose. The sudden spike in the prices, which is more than double the previous price, has shocked many observers.
Interestingly, the role of the union government in the entire matter seems to be murkier. It can be understood that India is not an economically developed nation hence providing a large population with free vaccines may be difficult. But going by the union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, India seems to be poised well to deal with the economics of the vaccine. Notably, Sitharaman had already allocated Rs 35,000 crore for vaccination in the country and even maintained that more would be released if needed. Now, the government has been and will be procuring the vaccines from SII thereby, exhausting this amount over the Institute. Therefore, Poonawalla, when he had maintained that he was not making losses while charging Rs 150 to the union government, suddenly raising the prices even after knowing that the demands are going to get higher, smells fishy.
Moreover, the government keeping mum over the entire issue makes it more dubious. Nevertheless, the citizens are preparing themselves to start queuing for the vaccines at government centres for hours at a stretch or paying dearly for the shot of virus protection. What more can they do even?

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