Pricing delays hamper deployment of essential vaccines in India



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A health worker opens a freezer during a vacuum test of the Covid-19 vaccine in Delhi on January 2.

Photographer: T. Narayan / Bloomberg

As large countries like the United States and China rush to vaccinate their populations with rapidly approved vaccines, tens of millions of doses prepared for India are in storage despite being cleared for use.

While distribution to other countries began shortly after approval with price agreements signed in advance, New Delhi and Serum Institute of India Ltd. – the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer by volume and AstraZeneca Plc’s local partner – has engaged in months of behind-the-scenes haggling and has yet to sign a formal supply agreement. This has left at least 70 million doses of the vaccine in limbo despite the urgent need in a country facing the world’s second largest epidemic.

Interview with Adar Poonawalla, CEO of Serum Institute Of India Ltd.

Photographer: Dhiraj Singh / Bloomberg

On Sunday, the CEO of Serum billionaire Adar Poonawalla said Indian officials had agreed “orally” to buy 100 million doses at a “special price” of 200 rupees ($ 2.74) a shot, below of Prizes of $ 4 to $ 5 given to the British government. The company then wants to sell vaccines to individuals and businesses at a premium of Rs1,000 within two to three months.

The Indian government may be looking to pressure Serum to lower its prices, as evidenced by its controversial move to give the green light to a rival vaccine developed by a local company that is still recruiting volunteers for phase testing final, according to Abhishek Sharma, analyst at Jefferies.

The stalemate has cost precious time in a country where infections have crossed the 10 million mark and reflects the tension between the public interest and the private profits of pharmaceutical companies who want to quickly recoup their investments in the pandemic.

While wealthier developed economies have mostly avoided price disputes in their deployments so far, the question of how much vaccinations should cost amid a pandemic that kills more than 10,000 people every day in the world. world is likely to become more important as distribution expands to developing countries. .

For Prime Minister Narendra Modi, every penny spent on the price of a vaccine in a country home to more than 1.3 billion people will have serious financial consequences for his administration.



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