New Delhi: Vaccine maker Serum Institute of India (SII) today defended pricing Covishield vaccine at 1.5 times the initial rate, asserting that the rates are still lower than a lot of other medical treatment and essentials required to treat COVID-19 and other life-threatening diseases. SII CEO Adar Poonawalla further reasoned that prices were initially low globally owing to advance funding. However, now it has to invest in scaling up and expanding capacity to produce more shots, he added.Also Read - Centre Waives Off Customs Duty on Import of Covid Vaccines And Oxygen For 3 Months

“Only a limited portion of Serum Institute of India’s volume will be sold to private hospitals at INR 600 per dose. The price of the vaccine is still lower than a lot of other medical treatment and essentials required to treat COVID-19 and other life-threatening diseases,” Adar Poonawalla said in a statement.

The Serum Institute of India manufactures AstraZeneca’s vaccine Covishield at its Pune facility. The statement by the Institute came after it earlier this week announced a price of Rs 600 per dose for private hospitals and at Rs 400 for state governments. This compared to Rs 150 per dose it charges the central government for the existing supplies. This led to a controversy over different rates being charged from state governments and the Centre for the COVID-19 vaccine. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal yesterday, during his interaction with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said “one nation, one rate” policy should be followed for Coronavirus vaccines.

“There was an inaccurate comparison done between the global prices of the vaccine with India,” SII said. “Covisheld is the most affordable Covid-19 vaccine available in the market today.”

The initial price, it said, was “kept low globally as it was based on advance funding given by those countries for at risk vaccine manufacturing.”

“The initial supply price of Covishield for all government immunization programme, including India, has been the lowest,” it said.

“The current situation is extremely dire, the virus is constantly mutating while the public remains at risk. Identifying the uncertainty, we have to ensure sustainability as we must be able to invest in scaling up and expanding our capacity to fight the pandemic and save lives.”

SII went on to add that only a limited portion of SII”s volume will be sold to private hospitals at Rs 600 per dose.

“The price of the vaccine is still lower than a lot of other medical treatment and essentials required to treat COVID-19 and other life-threatening diseases,” it added.

(With agency inputs)