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'Firms may prefer selling doses to pvt hosps, Centre's pricing discriminatory'

KOLKATA: With the Bengal government planning to vaccinate people above the age of 18 years after May 5 and outgoing Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announcing Rs 100 crore fund for buying vaccine doses, a section of doctors in the city raised apprehensions that Centre's policy leading to variations in the price of vaccine doses may affect the smooth inoculation drive for people in the age group of 18 to 45 years.

The experts pointed out that there was no uniformity in the pricing of the vaccine doses. The Center will pay a lower rate than the states and private hospitals. "Initially, the Centre had assured that vaccine doses would be given to people free-of-costs. But, now it has been trying to shrug off its responsibilities by shifting the burden onto the state governments," said Dr Nirmal Maji, president of West Bengal Medical Council.

A few days back, the Centre had announced that all the states could directly buy the vaccine doses from the manufacturer. As per the rate fixed by the Centre, state governments will have to pay Rs 600 per single dose of Covaxin while the private hospitals have to spend Rs 1200. State governments will have to bear four times the cost what the Centre will pay for one dose. The Centre will only pay Rs 150 for one dose. In case of Covishield, state government will pay Rs 400 per dose, the private hospitals Rs 600 while the Centre has to pay only Rs 150 per dose.

"As a result of the faulty decision by the Centre and the huge difference in the pricing, the manufacturers will prefer selling vaccines to private hospitals over the state government as they will get more prices. This policy of the Centre has been discriminatory," said Dr S Biswas, a senior doctor from a government hospital in the state.

Outgoing Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had also raised her voice against the arbitrary decision of the Centre. Banerjee also mentioned that state government would bear the cost of vaccination and also announce fund.

Some city-based doctors said there was no rationale justifying the fact that as to why the Centre would pay lesser than the state governments, when the former has better financial resources. Bengal government has already vaccinated more than 1 crore people. The process has, however, been slowed down due to short supply. Several vaccination centers across Bengal were shut due to low stocks.

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