India: The Covid-19 pandemic brought about a global health emergency, leading to lockdowns, mask mandates and exposing the limitations of developed nations’ healthcare systems. Vaccines were seen as the only hope for a way out of the crisis. Countries around the world began competing to develop vaccines against coronavirus, with major players such as the US, Russia, China and the UK leading the race. In December 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) granted emergency approval for the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, and later in April 2021, it authorized the Moderna vaccine, making it the fifth authorized vaccine against the novel coronavirus.
Despite initial perceptions that India was not a major player in the global race to develop a Covid-19 vaccine, the country, under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and with the assistance of pharmaceutical companies and experts, successfully developed two indigenous vaccines, COVAXIN and Covishield, the latter of which was prepared by India’s Serum Institute in partnership with AstraZeneca.
“India, despite facing accusations of profiteering during the pandemic, has vaccinated over 90% of its population at no cost or at a greatly reduced price. Additionally, India is also providing free Covid-19 vaccines to other countries through its Vaccine Maitri initiative.”
“Moderna recently announced the possibility of a significant increase in the price of its Covid-19 vaccine, with a 400% hike being mentioned. This announcement comes as China is experiencing a severe outbreak and the US is seeing a rise in cases during the winter season. According to The Wall Street Journal, Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel stated that this price hike is consistent with the value of the vaccine during a speech at the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco. If implemented, this price increase would be similar to the one previously announced for Pfizer-BioNTech’s competing vaccine.
Covid vaccination in the US
In the United States, the federal government has previously obtained vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech and made them available to Americans for free. However, recent revisions in federal contracts have resulted in an increase in the cost of the vaccines.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the government paid $26 per dose for Moderna’s booster shot, up from $15-16 per dose in July. The government also paid a little over $30 per dose for Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine this past summer, up from $19.50 per dose in 2020 contracts. US officials have stated that after the summer contracts expire, the companies may switch to commercial distribution of vaccines, potentially resulting in a cost of $110-$130 per dose for Moderna’s vaccine.
India’s vaccine cheapest in the world: Government
In contrast, India has made both Covishield and Covaxin available at a cost of Rs 200 and Rs 295 per dose respectively, which is significantly cheaper than the cheapest vaccines available worldwide. Bharat Biotech also provided 16.5 lakh doses of the vaccine free of charge to the government. India has also launched the Vaccine Maitri programme, which aims to provide medical and other assistance to over 150 countries since the beginning of the pandemic. India has supplied 723.435 lakh doses of Covid vaccine to 94 countries and 2 UN entities in the form of grants, commercial exports, or through the COVAX program till November 2021.
India said NO to Pfizer and Moderna vaccines
The Indian government has also decided not to purchase Covid-19 shots from Pfizer and Moderna as domestic production of more affordable and easier-to-store vaccines has increased. This decision has been praised as a smart step in India’s fight against the pandemic and has received global recognition for its meticulous vaccination program and policies to provide medical assistance to other developing nations.