Following the union government’s new pricing policy for Covid-19 vaccines, the CoWIN portal will not allow the private vaccination centres to offer jabs exceeding the MRP in accordance with the revised vaccination guidelines, which is slated to come into effect June 21 onwards.
Speaking to The Statesman, Dr RS Sharma, Chairperson, Empowered Group on Vaccine Administration, informed that a cap would be put on the vaccines’ MRP at the CoWIN which the private Covid Vaccination Centres (CVC) will not be able to surpass.
“We will be putting a cap adhering to the MRP decided in the latest guideline by the union health ministry. Private CVCs exceeding that threshold will be automatically rejected to undertake the vaccination drive at their sites,” he said.
“We have a system in place. The private CVCs have to declare the vaccination cost at their respective sites before going ahead with the inoculation. We will be putting the cap at the price declaration window. Their declaration won’t be accepted if found exceeding the MRP set by the government,” Sharma said,” Sharma added.
The development has come after the Centre announced a revised Covid-19 vaccination policy wherein the service charge for the inoculation levied by the private CVCs are capped with a ceiling of Rs 150 that hospitals can charge per dose and a GST of 5 per cent.
As per the latest guideline, the maximum price chargeable for Covishield is Rs 780, it’s Rs 1,410 for Covaxin while the Sputnik V can be sold maximum at Rs 1,145 for a dose.
The capping of service charge will come in effect from June 21 and is aimed to check the exorbitantly high prices of vaccination charged at the private hospitals.
The total cost of vaccination will be displayed on the CoWIN portal at the time of booking the slot.
However, there is no mechanism in place on the CoWIN enabling the user to flag the vaccine cost exceeding the government’s threshold if found being charged at a private vaccination point.
“People will have to follow the due procedure where they will have to contact the authorities for it. CoWIN doesn’t facilitate complaints related to pricing currently,” said Sharma who is also CEO at National Health Authority (NHA).
Though manufacturers are selling the Covishield and Covaxin to private hospitals at Rs 600 and Rs 1,200 per shot, respectively, some centres have been charging as high as Rs 2,000 for one shot of these vaccines.
Citizens and public health experts have been raising alarm that such a high cost of vaccination would lead to unaffordability among the masses and also impact the vaccination coverage.
Dr VK Paul, Chairman of the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 had also remarked on Tuesday that the high price of COVID-19 vaccines at private hospitals is “unacceptable”.
Addressing a press conference, Dr Paul said, “It is unacceptable that hospitals charge ₹1,600 or even ₹4,000 for vaccines that cost ₹600. They must limit their price.”
On Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that India will shift to centralised procurement of Covid-19 vaccines after several states had faced difficulties in procuring and managing the funding of vaccines.
This marks a change from the previous policy from May 1, when the Centre had asked states and Private CVCs to procure 25 per cent of the doses, respectively, directly from the vaccine manufacturers to immunize the 18-44 year age group, while the union government would procure the rest of the 50 per cent.