In a startling revelation under RTI, it has emerged that the country has exported the Covid-19 vaccines to at least 47 countries globally at rates cheaper than India, even as the domestic patients run helter-skelter for the life-saver jab.Replying to an RTI query by a Nagpur-based activist-based lawyer, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA)'s Under Secretary Arun Kumar has stated that vaccines were supplied as 'grant' and 'contractual supplies' under the Covax facility."For grant supplies, vaccines were procured at a rate of Rs 200/dose plus GST from Serum Institute of India Pvt Ltd (SII-Pune) and at a rate of Rs 295/dose from Bharat Biotech International Ltd (BBIL), in accordance with the authorization given by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MHFW)," the MEA's RTI reply stated.In addition, the MEA said that the prices of other supplies undertaken by the manufacturers in accordance with their commercial agreements are not available with the government.The development comes on a day when the government appealed to the two main vaccine manufacturers SII (private) and BBIL (government-owned) to slash their prices for the mega-phase of inoculations starting May 1.Till today, a total of 14.53 crore people have got their first or second jabs, as per the official data."As per the data supplied till April 10, the Centre has already exported a total of 6.37 crore doses to 89 countries. This constitutes 1.03 crore doses at Rs 200+GST rates, and the rest 3.44 crore doses at commercial rates.
For the same doses, now the Centre has allowed the same companies to levy double the rates in the Indian markets," Adv Ajmera told IANS.According to the current data (April 27), the number of beneficiary countries has gone up to 95 and the total doses supplied are 6.63-crore, including 1.07 crore as grant Rs 200/dose+GST), and the rest 3.57 crore doses as per commercial agreements, he pointed out.Among the beneficiaries, Bangladesh - which Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited last month - has got the lion's share of 1.03 crore doses, including 33-lakh doses as 'grant' and the rest commercially.The other big ones are Myanmar (17-lakh doses), Nepal (11-lakh), and on the lower rung is Seychelles (0.5-lakh) and Dominica (0.7-lakh), and a 'grant' of 2-lakh doses to UN Peacekeepers."The question that arises is - when India with such a huge population is dying for the doses, where is the need for us to display such generosity to far-flung countries with low rates of infections and fatalities, many not heard of in India or visible on maps, some never visited by Indian leaders," Adv Ajmera asked.He said the surprise is 'grant' to prosperous countries like Bahrain and Oman, Nigeria, Kenya, and the tearing hurry in which at least 12 nations got their doses even before the drive had fully got underway in India!Against this, the two companies have announced their latest prices for the vaccines supplies for the domestic market.The SII is supplying its Covishield vaccine to state governments at Rs 400/dose and to private hospitals for Rs 600/dose, and the BBIL is giving it at Rs 600/dose to state governments and Rs 1200/dose to private hospitals.Apparently justifying their rates, the SII said that global vaccines in the private markets are available at much higher rates - Rs 1,500/dose (American jabs), and Rs 750/dose (Russian and Chinese jabs), while BBIL said the company is exporting its products at between $15-20/dose (roughly averaging to Rs 1,200/dose).Adv Ajmera said that ideally, India should have ensured sufficient doses for her own citizens, create a surplus before doling out the doses or permitting commercial exploitation by Indian companies at the cost of the local population.