The Serum Institute of India (SII) has slashed the cost of its Covishield vaccine for states from Rs 400 to Rs 300 per dose, chief executive Adar Poonawalla confirmed on Wednesday. 

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Taking to Twitter, Poonawalla said, "As a philanthropic gesture on behalf of @SerumInstIndia, I hereby reduce the price to the states from Rs.400 to Rs.300 per dose, effective immediately; this will save thousands of crores of state funds going forward. This will enable more vaccinations and save countless lives."

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The central government had on Monday asked the SII and Bharat Biotech, the maker of the indegenously-developed Covaxin, to lower its prices amid widespread criticism, PTI reported. 

The issue was discussed at a meeting chaired by Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba.

The Pune-based manufacturer, which is the country's and the world's biggest vaccine maker, had earlier announced it sell will the AstraZeneca/Oxford University-developed Covishield to states and private hospitals at Rs 400 and Rs 600 respectively. It initially sold its stock to the Centre at Rs 150 per dose. 

The company soon faced criticism over its pricing, particularly with reports emerging that other countries were procuring the vaccines directly from AstraZeneca for far cheaper rates. 

Poonawalla responded to those criticisms by saying that SII's pricing was the "most affordable", adding that they were based on advanced funding and that the company had to invest in increasing its production capacity. 

Bharat Biotech has priced its vaccine at Rs 600 for states and Rs 1,200 for private hospitals. 

According to The Indian Express, Saudi Arabia and South Africa are procuring the vaccine for $5.25, lower than SII's erstwhile Rs 400 ($5.30) price for states. The US and Bangladesh are procuring it for $4, Brazil for $3.15, the UK for $3 and the EU for $2.15-$3.50.