A claim broadcast by Hindi news channel ABP News and widely shared on social media suggests that the COVID-19 vaccine is free in India, while it costs Rs 5,500 in the United States and Rs 3,000 in the United Kingdom.
However, the claim is misleading. In India, Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan has clarified that the vaccine will be provided free of cost to three crore beneficiaries in the first phase of vaccine administration. Both US and UK are also providing the coronavirus vaccines free of cost, as of now.
ABP News ran a bulletin on 2 January on the government providing the vaccine for free in India. They also stated that USA and UK are charging Rs 5,500 and Rs 3,000 for the COVID vaccine.
The anchor can be heard referring to it at around 12 minutes.
Malayalam news channel, Asianet News also made a similar claim.
Several social media users shared the claim on Twitter and Facebook.
WHAT WE FOUND OUT
WHAT’S THE COST OF THE VACCINE?
Most companies that manufacture COVID vaccines such as Pfizer and BioNTech, Oxford University and AstraZeneca, and Moderna are selling the doses at a specified rate. For example, according to BBC, the vaccines in the US cost anywhere between Rs 292 to Rs 2,410 (converted at current rate) while in the UK the cost varies from Rs 297 to Rs 2,481(converted at current rate), depending on the company.
However, none of the companies are charging Rs 5,500 or Rs 3,000, as claimed.
Further, governments across the world have decided to bear the cost of the vaccines and provide them free of cost to their people, prioritising healthcare workers in phase one of inoculation.
Here’s a look at vaccine costs and inoculation plans of different countries.
The Government of India is all set to administer vaccines against the coronavirus after approving the Bharat Biotech’s indigenous COVID vaccine ‘Covaxin’ and Oxford-AstraZeneca’s ‘Covishield’ vaccine for restricted use in emergency situation.
Health Minister Harsh Vardhan stated that vaccines will be provided free of cost across all states of India in the first phase of administration, to the “most prioritised beneficiaries,” which include one crore healthcare and two crore frontline workers.
In 1st phase of #COVID19Vaccination free #vaccine shall be provided across the nation to most prioritised beneficiaries that incl 1 crore healthcare & 2 crore frontline workers
Details of how further 27 cr priority beneficiaries are to be vaccinated until July are being finalised pic.twitter.com/K7NrzGrgk3
— Dr Harsh Vardhan (@drharshvardhan) January 2, 2021
The inoculation plan of the rest of beneficiaries will be finalised by July, according to the Health Minister’s tweet.
However, this does not mean that the vaccine is being sold free of cost to the government.
In an interview to news agency, AP, Adar Poonawalla the CEO of the Serum Institute of India, the vaccine manufacturer behind Covishield – a two dose vaccine – has stated that they will provide the first 100 million doses of the vaccine to the Government of India at Rs 200 rupees per dose.
However, after that, he said, the “prices would be higher.” The vaccine will be sold at Rs 1,000 in the private market.
While Bharat Biotech hasn’t officially announced a price, company founder Dr Krishna Ella has said, “The cost depends on the size of volume. The price will be controlled by market. Initially, the price may be high but it will come down as more players enter the market.”
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
According to a BBC report, the costliest vaccine in the US, Moderna is priced at Rs 2,414.15, Pfizer-BioNTech is priced at Rs 1,463.12 and the Oxford-AstraZeneca at Rs 292.62.
However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stated that vaccine doses will be purchased by ‘taxpayer dollars’ and will be provided to Americans, whether insured or uninsured, at “no cost.”
However, an administration fee can be charged by vaccination providers.
The CDC has also recommended that the vaccine administration be prioritised for healthcare workers. The federal government has allotted vaccine doses for different states and jurisdictions, who will then decide how to administer the vaccine to the public. So far, the vaccines cannot be obtained privately.
In the UK, the vaccines are available at the cost of Rs 297.99 for the Oxford vaccine, Rs 1489.96 for Pfizer vaccine and Rs 2483.26 for the Moderna vaccine.
However, the government has made the vaccine available free of cost for its people, starting from priority groups like frontline health care workers and social care workers.
The vaccines will not be available privately and can only be obtained through the National Health Service for eligible groups for now.
BRAZIL, ITALY & OTHERS
Brazil has laid out a plan that provides the vaccine free of cost to its people. The President of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro had also tweeted that once the vaccine is approved by National Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa), the government will offer the vaccine “to all, free and not mandatory.”
- Em havendo certificação da @anvisa_oficial (orientações científicas e preceitos legais) o @govbr ofertará a vacina a todos, gratuita e não obrigatória.
- Segundo o @MinEconomia não faltarão recursos para que todos sejam atendidos.
- Saúde e Economia de mãos dadas pela vida. pic.twitter.com/l1JmtnBkRI
— Jair M. Bolsonaro (@jairbolsonaro) December 7, 2020
On 4 January, Anvisa’s official Twitter account also announced that it had approved the import of doses of the Oxford vaccine, although the vaccine has not yet been submitted for emergency use authorisation or health registration.
Italy’s vaccination plan also seeks to provide the vaccine free of cost to the people.
The European Union had approved the Pfizer vaccine and Italy obtained the vaccines through a centralised system of the EU, according to an article on LiveMint. The vaccinations began on 27 December in Italy.
Japan also passed a bill on 2 December to provide coronavirus vaccinations free of charge with the central government covering the cost, The Indian Express reported. Other countries like Mexico and Norway are also providing the shots for free.
Evidently, the claim made by ABP News and later shared by social media users regarding the costs of the vaccine in countries like UK and US is false.
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