ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Why India’s Vaccine Companies Are Profiteering in the Pandemic

Why India’s Vaccine Companies Are Profiteering in the Pandemic

The crisis of COVID-19 vaccines in India is a consequence of government policies dating back decades. Private foundations led by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have engineered a shift in research and manufacture of essential technologies such as vaccines to private biotech labs and factories. Companies such as the Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech can dictate terms and prices of vaccines developed with public support because the closure of public vaccine manufacturing units over a decade ago has left the government at the mercy of the private sector.

 

The COVID-19 vaccines’ pricing fia­sco in India highlights a critical gap in the country’s public health programme—public sector vaccine producers, once dominant, are now near ­absent. This shift is not accidental, but a consequence of considered policy ushered in with guidance from international foundations. As a result, private produ­cers can now dictate terms despite the public funds and research which has gone into the making of vaccines. Further, it is not possible to estimate the ­actual manufacturing costs without government production, as the pricing of private firms is completely opaque. This has allowed private firms to extract ­super-profits amidst an unprecedented public health emergency. However, while the government has the necessary legal powers to resolve the immediate vaccine crisis even at this stage, it app­ears to be lacking the political will to do so.

Four months into the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out, barely 2% of the ­Indian population has been fully vaccinated, and it is clear that only a fraction of the vaccines needed are available. Private manufacturers have been permitted to set their own differential prices and sell on the open market, making ­super-profits for a life-saving vaccine. As the vaccination programme descends into chaos, it is important to acknowledge the process which has led to private vaccine companies dictating terms to the government in a pandemic. The shortages and profiteering by vaccine companies are a consequence of government policies dating back decades. In the last 20 years, private foundations led by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) have engineered a shift in research and manufacture of essential technologies, such as vaccines, from the public sector to private biotech labs and factories. Companies such as the Serum Institute of India (SII) and Bharat Biotech can dictate terms and prices even though the vaccines these companies are selling were developed with public support. They can do this in part bec­ause the closure of public vaccine manufacturing units over a decade ago has left the government at the mercy of the private sector.

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Updated On : 30th May, 2021

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