Private Firms In Pakistan To Import Covid Vaccine
As Pakistan struggles to secure Covid-19 vaccination supplies, the government has approved a proposal that will allow private companies to import coronavirus vaccines and that too without any price cap on the imports.
Reuters reported that National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination division of the health ministry sought a special cabinet exemption for the import of vaccines by private companies. Normally a strict price cap is applied to the drugs imported in the country but under the special exemption that the government has taken, there will be no regulatory price cap fo the vaccines.
Price regulations exemption for the next six months
The document that details the process of acquiring vaccines and how the private sector will import them also includes suspension of some related regulations for six months to let the private sector determine the maximum price caps.
Health Minister Faisal Sultan has confirmed that the cabinet has approved the proposal on the basis that private sector can import and set the pricing as there is no reference price.
Chances of Misusing the No Price Cap
Pakistan is relying on GAVI/WHO COVAX vaccine initiative that is aiming to provide shots to poorer nations. The country is expected to receive 17 million vaccine shots but as of now has not received any. Even though the government had promised that everyone will get the vaccine for free, with the private sector acquiring vaccines for themselves, that seems unlikely.
Regarding this the health minister said, “Only those who wish to get it via private sector will pay anything. Personally, my assessment is that when the vaccines are available and we have market competition, that will automatically set the prices.”
Experts on the other hand are against the idea of private sector administering the vaccine and that too without a price cap. Ejaz A. Khan doctor leading the CanSinoBIO trial at Islamabad’s Shifa Hospital has called for review on the move.
“Not setting a price limit for the private sector opens up the market for misuse,” he said.
Govt to ‘keep a Check’:
Addressing the concerns about the misuse of the absence of a price cap on the vaccine imports health minister Sultan said “We will continue monitoring the prices and obviously we will see their procurement price to see if there is any over-pricing, and the government always retains the right to intervene if there is any predatory practice.”