Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, to be marketed as ‘Covishield’ may be priced under Rs. 1000. Novavax, another one to head to trials will reportedly be priced somewhere between Rs. 200-300. In comparison to these, Pfizer’s could cost over Rs. 1600-2000 and it is estimated that Moderna, another prime candidate could cost between Rs. 3000-4000 per shot. Covaxin, ZyCov-D and Sputnik V have yet not indicated their pricing.
Even though there are no plans of Chinese vaccines being brought to India as of now, it is being suggested that two doses of the vaccine could cost the public somewhere close to Rs. 10,000, marking it super costly.
Producing vaccines, at a large scale, is a costly affair and making sure it reaches the right audience is also something which requires a huge amount of investment. Most pharma companies, right now, have promised to sell their vaccines as per pandemic pricing, or make it affordable for developing and low-economical nations. Pricing is an important aspect to be considered. It could also decide who gets their hand on a vaccine first hand.
While Indian officials have asked global vaccine makers to send estimates of vaccine, it is still unclear how pricey a vaccine is going to be for Indian masses.
VK Paul, a member of NITI Aayog, who looks over vaccine administration shared during an interview: “Pricing is perhaps complex because some of them (candidate vaccines) are at an early stage (of development). This information will be refined as we move along. There is no firm information. But we have asked about the price range (of the potential vaccines) from individual manufacturers.”
Vaccines, effective or not, do come with a price tag. With high expectations of first doses being made ready in the coming months, and more being pushed into use in the future, there are three main factors which could decide the pricing of a vaccine for the Indian masses:
1. The technology behind it
A lot of vaccines being worked on right now make use of different technologies-mRNA, DNA vector technologies, which not just require a bit of scientific precision but are costly to procure. The cost will also be reflected in the final mark-up of the vaccine being sold. Hence, different companies are subject to selling the vaccine at different prices.
In the future, when we have more than one (or two) vaccines ready, the pricing could also differ on the basis of efficacy. Higher the response and efficacy rate, higher could the price go.
2. Storage and transportation
mRNA vaccines make use of special enzymes (vaccinia capping enzyme) which not only degrade faster, but are also considered to be one of the costliest ingredients in the world, and also difficult to procure. Cold storage, in places where it isn’t possible, would also require the use of additional resources and shoot up the cost as well.
Far-off areas may also have to pay a higher upfront cost, to facilitate vaccine delivery, which, again, could add up the costs.
3. Vaccines would be free of cost for the public, the government would pay the price
While price capping is being considered, there is also a possible option that the governments of respective countries could be paying upfront costs to the companies, and then distribute the vaccines ‘free of cost’ to the public, or offer them at a discounted rate and provide subsidies in the long run.
However, there’s also a strong possibility that prices could also differentiate, depending on the country it is primarily designed to use for, the population group it is targeted at. Wealthier nations may also have to pay more, depending on the situation at hand.