Amidst the scourge of the second Coronavirus wave in India, the country is spearheading its third nationwide vaccination drive for citizens aged of 18-44 from Friday, 1 May 2021. Registrations for vaccinations commence from tomorrow (Wednesday, 28 April 2021). The two vaccine variants being offered for mass administration are Covishield and Covaxin. Covishield is the brainchild of Oxford University – AstraZeneca and has been manufactured domestically by the Serum Institute of India, whereas Covaxin is an indigenously researched and developed vaccine by Bharat Biotech. The efficacy of both vaccines slightly varies and concerns over the price range of both vaccines have been raised.
Covashield has a reported effectiveness rate of around 70% with the potential to reach 90% efficacy when injected as a 50% (half) dose with a full dose to be administered a month later. The overall efficacy of Covaxin as interim analysis indicates is about 78%; a 100% efficacy has been touted when countering extreme cases of Coronavirus. The second course of Covashield is generally to be administered from anywhere between one to two months, while Covaxin beneficiaries are to wait anywhere between a month to a month and a half.
The price per Covashield course ranges anywhere between Rs 400-600, with the former for government establishments, and the latter for private medical establishments. Covaxin prices range anywhere between rupees 600-1200, with the former for government establishments, and the latter for private medical establishments. These prices are only for those between the ages 18-44. These rates have been announced for both state and private facilities, however both vaccines are available free of cost by the central government. The Russian vaccine Sputnik V will also be available in India by the end of next month (May) as part of the nation’s emergency supplies. The cost and availability of Sputnik V is presently unavailable in the public domain.
The Rs 600-1200 cost per vaccine dose is reported to be the highest in the world. Ironically, Bharat Biotech, the Covaxin manufacturer, which has a mission of providing affordable healthcare, has not yet directly addressed the price issue however, the company’s Chairman and Managing Director, Krishna M Ella issued a statement saying,
“COVAXIN is an inactivated and highly purified vaccine, making manufacturing expensive due to very low process yields. All costs towards product development, manufacturing facilities and clinical trials were deployed primarily using internal funding and resources of Bharat Biotech…Recovering costs is essential in the journey of innovation towards other vaccines such as intranasal COVID-19, Chikungunya, Zika, Cholera, and others. Our core mission for the past 25 years has been to provide affordable yet world class healthcare solutions for the globe.”
Covaxin suffered image problems after the government approved it for emergency use during the stage two trials leading to controversy.