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Modi govt drives hard bargain, ZyCov-D vaccine could cost Rs 275/dose

The Government of India is driving a hard bargain on the world’s first DNA vaccine ZyCov-D, manufactured by Zydus Cadila. The three-dose Covid vaccine’s price is now down to Rs 275 per dose, and with negotiations still on with the company, government officials are hopeful that it could come down even further.

PTI had earlier reported that Zydus has quoted a price of Rs 1,900 for three doses, including the applicator. However, even at the current price level being cited by government officials, the vaccine could end up costing less than half that amount — Rs 825 for three doses.

“The vaccine price stands at Rs 275 per dose as of now. Negotiations are going on, so it is possible that it will come down even further,” a government official told ThePrint.

The government is currently procuring only two other vaccines for the national Covid immunisation programme — Covishield at Rs 205 per dose, and Covaxin at Rs 215 per dose.

ZyCov-D is a three-dose vaccine that will be given on day zero, day 28 and day 56. Each dose consists of two shots that are supposed to be administered on each arm, and thus, a person has to be injected with a total of six shots to be fully vaccinated.

Though the price is now down to the same range as the vaccines currently in use in the programme, the fact that both Covaxin and Covishield are two-dose vaccines would, however, mean a slight escalation in cost for the government for full vaccination.

NTAGI recommendation still awaited
The first instalment of about one crore vaccines doses have now been cleared, and the government has also started training vaccinators across the country in using the special needle-free applicator. Even as the government continues negotiations with the manufacturer, the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI) has not yet made its recommendations on the use of the DNA vaccine.

The Zydus vaccine, unlike the others currently in use, can also be given to children as young as 12, but the government has not made any decision so far on the vaccination of minors. A crucial input in that decision will come from the Covid working group of the NTAGI. Sources say the NTAGI is in favour of starting vaccinations in children with comorbidities, but there is still lack of clarity on what documents will be acceptable as proof that a child indeed has a comorbidity.

“We have not taken any decision on the vaccination of children or of reserving ZyCov-D for children,” a senior health ministry official told ThePrint. However, given the limited doses available, officials also point out that the contribution of the Zydus vaccine in the adult immunisation programme may be fairly limited.

Other manufacturers unhappy
Meanwhile, reports of Zydus asking for Rs 1,900 for three doses of its vaccine has caused disquiet among existing vaccine manufacturers, and they are learnt to have informally communicated to the government that the huge difference in pricing of the vaccines would be very “unfair”.

At the Covid-19 briefing last week, Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan did not give a date for the introduction of ZyCov-D in the National Covid Vaccination programme, but had made a clear statement that the vaccine would be differently priced. Bhushan had said: “Since ZyCov-D is needleless and a three-dose vaccine, it will be priced differently from the vaccines currently being used.” ThePrint

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