COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers bag huge profits on ‘humanitarian’ cause: Report

Hyderabad: 2.9 crore cases and 3.85 lakh deaths since the pandemic began in March 2020 and India’s vaccine makers have turned out to be classic profiteers instead of the humanitarians that they claim to be, according to a report by The Intercept.

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Like journalist V Sridhar said in a Frontline’s report: “The Indian vaccine ‘market’ is held in a vise-like grip of a vaccine duopoly.”

Almost all the vaccines supplied in India come from only two big companies, Serum Institute of India, led by Adar Pooonawalla and Bharat Biotech, run by Krishna Ella. Despite both companies repeatedly advertising that their vaccines will be the cheapest in the world, they are also the world’s most profitable, The Intercept said in a report.

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According to the Scroll, for each dose sold to private hospitals, Serum makes profits of up to 2,000 per cent and Bharat Biotech up to 4,000 per cent. In comparison, Pfizer and Moderna make profits up to 650 per cent and 500 per cent respectively.

Bharat Biotech’s founder Krishna Ella, who developed the vaccine with public funds must have been drinking some very expensive water, as he earlier promised that his vaccine would cost less than a water bottle, however, the company is now charging exorbitant rates for each shot. Rs 400/- for government hospitals, and almost three times the price in private hospitals. Bharat Biotech has also been expanding its commercial vaccine exports despite government restrictions according to The Intercept.

Unlike Serum’s Covishield, Covaxin is not restricted by any big pharma patent. The Indian government controls part of Covaxin’s intellectual property rights, despite everything Bharat Biotech inexplicably monopolized production until a month ago, “can the center do away with COVID-19 monopoly,” Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal wrote to PM Modi last month.

Critics say that by distributing vaccines through the open market, the Indian government fractured its citizen’s collective buying and bargaining power, giving up all leverage to capitalists.

According to The Intercept, India’s health care capitalists have gone largely unnoticed, aided by the government’s free-market approach to vaccine distribution at each step, India’s very own big pharma has used the pandemic to strengthen market shares, grow profits and place vaccines behind a paywall unscalable for most people in a country plagued with dire systemic inequalities.  

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Sruthi Vibhavari

Sruthi Vibhavari is a budding journalist from Hyderabad. A graduate in Economics and Political Science, she is a keen follower of contemporary socio-political and economic developments in the country and also the world. While she occasionally writes poems in English, she is also an Urdu literature enthusiast – right from Mirza Ghalib to Gulzar.
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