Centre, not states should bear full cost of vaccines: Arvind Subramanian

Terming India’s COVID-19 vaccine pricing as complicated and politicised, former chief economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian on Saturday said the Centre and not states should bear the full cost of vaccines.

On April 19, the Centre announced that all above 18 years of age will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccination from May 1 while private hospitals and states will be able to buy doses from manufacturers.

“India’s vaccine pricing being complicated/politicized. … Govt. should pay manufacturers reasonable price. This is not the time for haggling and creating uncertainty for private sector, domestic or foreign,” he said in a series of tweets.

Serum Institute of India (SII) earlier this week announced a price of Rs 400 per dose for its COVID-19 vaccine Covishield for state governments and Rs 600 per dose for private hospitals.

This is compared to Rs 150 per dose it charges the central government for the existing supplies.

“There should be only ONE price for vaccine jabs all over India. That price should be ZERO. So, vaccines should be free for all.Differentiation and complexity are unethical, unnecessary, and difficult to implement,” Subramanian said.

“Free vaccines for all will avoid vaccine politicization. The Centre-NOT states-should bear full fiscal “costs” of vaccines,” he added.

Earlier this week, Serum said, “Going ahead, 50 per cent of our capacities will be served to the Government of India’s vaccination program, and the remaining 50 per cent of the capacity will be for the state governments and private hospitals.”

The government on Saturday waived basic customs duty on import of COVID-19 vaccines, medical-grade oxygen and related equipment for three months “with immediate effect to boost their availability” and make them cheaper amid rising cases of coronavirus infections in the country.

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