Special Assistant to the P.M. on Health claims decision taken as there is no ‘reference price’ available to set limits
The government has decided to allow private companies that import COVID-19 vaccines to set their own prices for the inoculations, exempting them from the price caps that are normally applied to any drugs that are sold in the local market.
According to a report by the Reuters news agency, the Health Ministry had urged the federal cabinet to approve an exemption for such imports. It said that that cabinet, led by Prime Minister Imran Khan, had approved the proposal, allowing the private sector to determine maximum prices of its own accord.
Special Assistant to the P.M. on Health Dr. Faisal Sultan told the news agency that the decision would allow the private sector to drive pricing, adding that there is no available “reference price” to set government limits. An official of the health ministry said that the private sector would only be allowed to import vaccines that had been approved for use in Pakistan, adding that the government would fix its own price after the vaccine’s availability in the international market stabilized.
COVID-19 vaccines are currently in high demand in the open market, as most shots are being sold through bilateral agreements between countries or distributed through international initiatives such as COVAX. According to daily Dawn, some private companies had informed the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan that they could arrange vaccines themselves and sell them in the open market.
Sultan told Reuters that the government still planned to inoculate its population for free, adding that only a “small minority” who wished to pay for the shots would have that option in the open market. “My assessment is that when the vaccines are available and we have market competition, that will automatically set the prices,” he claimed.
Pakistan has yet to secure any quantity of COVID-19 vaccines that are not part of aid or been donated by neighboring China. Earlier this month, Islamabad launched its vaccination drive with 500,000 doses of China’s Sinopharm’s vaccine, which were donated by Beijing. These shots are intended for frontline healthcare workers, according to the government. The health ministry claims it will receive another 1.1 million doses of Sinopharm, but has yet to clarify any date for this. COVAX, meanwhile, has pledged to provide 17 million free doses of either Oxford-AstraZeneca or Pfizer by the end of March.