As the nation braces for the first paid Covid booster shot, which becomes available to all adults from Sunday, the prices of Covishield and Covaxin at private hospitals have been slashed by more than half. Result: Both the vaccine doses will now cost Rs 225.
While Covishield was earlier priced at Rs 600, Covaxin is down from Rs 1,200 per dose. However, private hospitals can charge Rs 150 for administering the dose.
While the Serum Institute of India CEO Adar Poonawalla and Bharat Biotech cofounder Suchitra Ella welcomed the pricing, the Congress party felt it was discriminatory and slammed the Modi government. It dubbed the decision on privatisation of the booster vaccines as "cruel, cunning, brutal and callous," asserting that it segregates the poor from the rich and the rural population from the urban.
Party spokesman Dr Abhishek Manu Singhvi questioned the policy and pointed out that every country is providing the booster free to the eligible, be it Pakistan or Bangladesh. He also wanted to know why the booster dose will be administered only by private hospitals and not government institutions. He said the new policy had created two classes of haves and have-nots.
Those adults who are seeking the booster dose need to ensure that nine months have elapsed since they received the second dose, officials in the Union Health Ministry said. Since the beginning of the nationwide inoculation drive in January of last year, about 96 per cent of all those above the age of 15 years have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 jab. At the same time, 83 per cent have received both doses of Covid-19 vaccines.
The Centre on Saturday told the states that the booster dose will be of the same vaccine as had been administered twice earlier. Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan, who held an orientation meeting of the health secretaries of all states and Union territories, also informed that no fresh registration would be required for the precaution dose.
The states were also advised to accelerate the administration of the ongoing free Covid vaccination to the population above 12 years of age.