Serum Institute of India (SII) — the maker of the most used COVID-19 vaccine in the country — on Wednesday announced a cut in price of the jab it plans to sell to states to Rs 300 per dose from the earlier Rs 400.
This follows widespread criticism of its pricing policy as it has sold the initial doses of Covishield to the central government at Rs 150 per dose.
SII's CEO Adar Poonawalla took to Twitter to announce the "philanthropic" gesture.
"As a philanthropic gesture on behalf of @SerumInstIndia, I hereby reduce the price to the states from Rs 400 to Rs 300 per dose, effective immediately; this will save thousands of crores of state funds going forward. This will enable more vaccinations and save countless lives," he said.
According to official sources, the central government on Monday had asked SII and Bharat Biotech to lower the prices of their COVID-19 vaccines amid criticism from various states who accused the companies of profiteering during such a major crisis.
The issue of vaccine pricing was discussed at a meeting chaired by Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba.
Many states have objected to the different prices for the vaccines.
Last week, SII had defended the pricing of the Covishield vaccine, saying the earlier price was based on advance funding and now it has to invest in scaling up and expanding capacity to produce more shots.
The company, which manufactures the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine at Pune, had on April 21 announced a price of Rs 600 per dose for private hospitals and at Rs 400 for state governments and for any new contract by the central government.
"The current situation is extremely dire, the virus is constantly mutating while the public remains at risk. Identifying the uncertainty, we have to ensure sustainability as we must be able to invest in scaling up and expanding our capacity to fight the pandemic and save lives," the company had earlier said.
The government last week waived basic customs duty on import of COVID vaccines, medical grade oxygen and related equipment for three months. India has announced expansion of its COVID-19 vaccination drive by allowing its large 18-plus population to get inoculated from May 1.