A professor at the School of Development Studies at TISS, Ramakumar questioned why the contract between the Indian Council of Medical Research and Bharat Biotech (which produces Covaxin) was not made public.
The pricing of COVID vaccine COVAXIN at a higher figure than COVISHIELD will keep it even ‘more out of bounds’ for the poorer Indian citizens, said economist R Ramakumar in a series of tweets. Ramakumar, who is a professor at the School of Development Studies at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), questioned why the contract between the Indian Council of Medical Research and Bharat Biotech (which produces Covaxin) was not made public.
On Saturday, Bharat Biotech said it would provide its vaccine to state governments at Rs 600 per dosage, and to private hospitals at Rs 1,200 per dosage. Earlier, the Serum Institute of India had said that its vaccine Covishield will be available to state governments at Rs 400 per dose and to private hospitals at Rs 600 per dose.
Commenting on the government’s stand on vaccine pricing, Ramakumar said:
It appears that the GoI has some control over the IP because the GoI had given approval to the Haffkine Institute, Pune to manufacture Covaxin on 16 April 2021. If the IP was BB’s, then GoI would not have been able to do this. 8/n
— R. Ramakumar (@ramakumarr) April 25, 2021
In the series of tweets, the TISS professor asked, “Where is the contract between ICMR and BB? Why has it not been made public, given that taxpayers’ money was involved in funding the collaboration?”
Ramakumar called upon the Centre to release all the agreements between the ICMR and Bharat Biotech to the public. “How did GoI leverage its IP rights in the midst of the pandemic? Was a public technology let free for private profiteering?,” he questioned.
The professor noted that Covaxin is a product of Indian public-funded research and referred to a News18 article, which quoted an ICMR official, as saying, “ICMR and BBIL are jointly working for the pre-clinical as well as clinical development of this vaccine.”
Several Opposition leaders have questioned the government for allowing ‘profiteering and exploitation’ by vaccine manufacturing firms.
Former Union minister P Chidambaram remarked, “The government is standing (not helplessly) and silently endorsing the blatant profiteering and exploitation by the two manufacturers. Why is the government not invoking the provision of ”compulsory licensing”?”
“Will those who justified the COVISHIELD prices of Rs 400 and 600 also justify the COVAXIN prices of Rs 600 and 1200 announced today?” he asked in a series of tweets.
Another Congress leader Jairam Ramesh raised questions over the differential pricing of vaccines for the Centre and the states.
“Deferential to Centre. Differential to States. SII recently said Rs 400 is new price for ALL new govt procurements — States and Centre. What’s the truth? States have to buy from SII at Rs 400 ($5.30) — Highest in the World — for Made in India vaccine. Why?” he asked.
The health ministry, however, clarified, saying, “It is clarified that Govt of India’s procurement price for both COVID-19 vaccines remains Rs 150 per dose. GOI procured doses will continue to be provided TOTALLY FREE to States.”
With inputs from PTI
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