Mamata writes to PM against ‘discriminatory’ vaccine prices

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi alleging that the “Liberalised and Accelerated Phase 3 Strategy of Covid-19 Vaccination” is highly discriminatory and anti-people. The chief minister has been vocal after the vaccine manufacturing unit fixed different prices for state governments, private facilities and the Central government.

“First why are the prices of vaccines different in cases of the state government? GOI gets the vaccine from the manufacturers @rs 150 per dose, while you have fixed for us, the states, a price of Rs 400 per dose! States will need to pay 167% extra over and above the rates that GOI has fixed for itself. This is anti-federal and anti-poor. States will buy vaccines for the poor and the young, hence your policy is both anti-poor and anti-youth. Such a peculiar differentiation of rates is also unheard of in the history. In fact, never ever has any state in the country been asked to buy vaccines in any mass immunization drive, let alone at such hugely high rates!” the chief minister wrote.

Banerjee also wrote, “fixing rate for private hospitals at Rs 600 per dose is not only discriminatory but it is also unhealthy as it is likely to trigger unscrupulous mechanisms in the market”.

Warning that the situation is grave and it is not the time to do business, the chief minister added, “I strongly feel that every Indian should get a free vaccine, regardless of age, caste, creed, location at one price — irrespective of who pays — the Centre or the state”.

The chief minister’s reaction came when the Serum Institute of India (SII) announced on Wednesday that the Covishield vaccine will be sold at Rs 400 per dose to the state governments and Rs 600 to private hospitals, Covishield is known as AstraZeneca vaccine across the world. The price for the same vaccine is pegged at Rs 150 per dose for the central government.

SII, an Indian biotechnology and pharmaceuticals company, issued a statement after the government allowed vaccination of all persons above the age of 18 from May 1. The decision was announced after a meeting of Prime Minister Narendra Modi with pharma companies, doctors, Cabinet ministers in charge of health, drugs and officials spanning multiple nodal ministries.