COVID-19 vaccine: Wide disparity in vaccination charges at private hospitals in India

This difference exists not just between hospitals in different cities, but also in different hospitals in the same city.

Currently, there is a difference of Rs 200 to Rs 250 in the prices being charged by various hospitals.

India COVID-19 vaccine policy: The Centre had brought in at the beginning of this month a COVID-19 vaccine policy to make the vaccination drive in the third phase smoother. However, it might have led to confusion and wide differences in the amount being charged by private hospitals for administering the vaccine, according to a report in IE. This difference, the report states, exists not just between hospitals in different cities, but also in different hospitals in the same city.

Mumbai-based HN Reliance was on Monday charging Rs 700 for a dose of Covishield as per the CoWIN app. Notably, Serum Institute of India (SII) is charging private hospitals Rs 600 for a dose of the vaccine. Meanwhile, the city’s Nanavati Hospital was charging Rs 900 for the same vaccine, Rs 300 more than the price charged by SII. Nanavati Hospital is managed by Radiant Life Care, which also manages Delhi’s BL Kapur Hospital and North India’s Max Healthcare. Thus, these hospitals are also charging Rs 900 for the jab.

Also read | Coronavirus vaccination: How is vaccine supply chain working in India?

Nationwide, hospitals under Apollo and Fortis groups are charging Rs 1,250 for a dose of Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin, as per CoWIN. This is Rs 50 above the price at which the manufacturer is providing a dose to private hospitals. On the other hand, Kolkata-based Woodlands Hospital is charging beneficiaries Rs 1,500 for one dose of the vaccine. The same price was being charged by Bengaluru-based BGS Gleneagles Global Hospital for Covaxin as on May 5, the report said, citing an analysis by Malini Aisola, the co-convener of All India Drug Action Network, and Siddhartha Das, a theoretical physicist. The duo have been working on the issue of access to vaccines, and they analysed the prices being charged by private hospitals located in major cities of India as per the CoWIN portal for the period between May 5 and May 8.

The Bengaluru hospital has however clarified that it was charging Rs 1,500 for the doses in cases of walk-ins for the initial two days only. At present, it said that it was administering the jabs for the vaccine at Rs 1,250 itself, and Rs 1,500 per dose is charged only in cases where the jabs are administered in apartment buildings or corporate offices, and that was only due to the additional travel costs and logistic charges involved.

Currently, there is a difference of Rs 200 to Rs 250 in the prices being charged by various hospitals. But in any case, the costs are much higher vis-a-vis the charge of Rs 250 that private hospitals were charging priority groups for administering vaccines.

The report quoted Aisola as saying that a few prominent and large hospital groups are monopolising the vaccine supply, some having received their stocks even before the month started, while numerous states are struggling to get access to these shots.

Moreover, while previously the Centre had made it mandatory for hospitals to not charge more than Rs 100 over the cost at which the vaccines were procured, now, there is no transparency regarding the margin of private hospitals, Aisola said, adding that it seemed that since private hospitals were the first movers once free pricing was opened, they have been charging whatever the customers might be willing to pay since demand is much more than the supply at the moment.

However, industry leaders have opined that the difference in prices are based on several other factors. For example, the Apollo group had started to negotiate with Bharat Biotech in November last year and thus, were able to procure the vaccine at Rs 1,000 per dose, the report cited group’s Executive VP Shobana Kamineni as saying. Over this, the group is charging Rs 200 for administration plus consultation and another Rs 50 for GST.

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