Pfizer may price Covid-19 vaccine lower in India than in UK and US

Lower price and infrastructure availability will ensure that doors remain open for the Pfizer vaccine to come to India for Covid-19 immunisation drive, according to sources
Global pharma major Pfizer may price its vaccine lower in India than in the UK and the US, sources in the know said. The government in the recent past had indicated that India wouldn’t be keen to procure the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine because of its high cost and the extreme cold chain requirement at minus 70 degree Celsius.

Responding to the concern over the temperature requirement, a senior government official pointed out that India had cold chain infrastructure, owned by the Department of Agricultural Research and Education, that would be sufficient for a vaccine like the one developed by US-based Pfizer along with Germany’s BioNTech. 

Lower price and infrastructure availability will ensure that doors remain open for the Pfizer vaccine to come to India for Covid-19 immunisation drive, according to sources. On pricing, officials confirmed that no vaccine player has quoted a final offer so far for the India market. 

Pfizer, which has applied for emergency use approval here, has indicated that it will have a differential pricing for different countries. In the US, the company has priced the vaccine for government procurement at $39 for two doses. In the UK, the vaccine is estimated to cost close to $40 for two doses. 

A Pfizer India spokesperson said the company would price the vaccine in a way that can help governments ensure there is little or no out-of-pocket costs for their population. 

As such, its global pricing strategy is dependent on volumes, advance commitments and affordability. 

"Our vaccine approach is based on the principle of ensuring broad access and supplies to governments,’’ the spokesperson said. He added that the company remains ‘’committed to engaging with the government of India and exploring opportunities to make this vaccine available for use in the country."   

The UK, which was the first to begin the vaccination drive in the West, has ordered almost 40 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The US too has started the process and millions of batches of the same vaccine are being shipped across the country. 

India stance

A senior government official said, "an appropriate call will be taken when the licensure of a vaccine is done. We are waiting for the regulator to approve a vaccine. We are engaging with all vaccine makers and none of them has quoted a final price yet. To compare, we will see the scientific data and also the competing offers on prices." 

On the temperature requirement for the Pfizer vaccine, the official said India had capacities in minus 70 degree cold chain too. "The Department of Agricultural Research and Education, within the Union Ministry of Agriculture, has a network of agriculture and animal husbandry laboratories across the country. They possess minus 70 cold chains and they have capacities to spare. They may not have it in geographical equitable network," he said. 

The revised budgetary estimates would be communicated to all ministries and departments in the next few days, according to the official quoted above. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare allocation for this fiscal has been enhanced, he added without elaborating. 

"We will now make a projection that we will procure a certain number of vaccine from whichever sources. One scenario is that the vaccine procurement happens from whatever funds are now available according to the revised estimates, and secondly the ministry can request for additional allocation," the official pointed out. 

The national expert group on vaccine administration for Covid-19 (NEGVAC)  and National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI) are advising the Health Ministry on the subject. 

"NTAGI will advise NEGVAC on how any vaccine will be administered, how geographies will be demarcated, where one vaccine would go and where the other one would go,’’ the official said. Depending on the advice, a decision will be taken on additional budgetary allocation.

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