India is the only major country globally that is asking its citizens to pay for getting vaccinated against Covid-19. But if having a majority of citizens in a developing country of 1.3 billion paying out of their meager incomes to literally stay alive is bad, then imagine the consequences of allowing virtually unrestricted pricing by private players.
The current formula devised by the Indian federal government splits all available vaccines between itself, state governments, and private players in a ratio of 50:25:25.
It’s the 25% vaccines that are being sold and administered by private hospitals and players where there’s both tremendous opacity and variance.
If you are in India, and got vaccinated after 1st May, between the age of 18-44, and received your dose through a private channel like a hospital, your apartment complex RWA, or via your employer, this survey is for you.
For the purpose of simplicity, let’s talk only about one vaccine – Covishield. This is the Indian brand name of the Astra Zeneca vaccine licensed, manufactured, and sold by Serum Institute of India (SII), the world’s largest vaccine maker. It is also the one currently being manufactured at the largest volumes in India, compared to Covaxin (developed and manufactured by Bharat Biotech) and Russia’s Sputnik (currently only being imported).
The price at which Covishield is sold by SII to private hospitals or players is Rs 600 per dose. Which, including taxes and transportation, comes to around Rs 650.
Once hospitals or procurers add in their own costs and profit margins, that ends up costing Indians anywhere from Rs 850 to Rs 1800.
Not only is that a huge variation, it is also largely opaque. Prices are fixed between hospitals and bulk buyers like companies (who want to vaccinate their employees) or resident welfare associations (who want to vaccinate residents in their communities).
Through this survey, The Ken hopes to shine some much-needed light on the sources, prices, and methods prevalent in the private sector vaccination space. We hope to be guided in our journalism by the data that is thrown up, and the questions it forces us to reckon with.