Tuesday Mar 23 2021

Sputnik V importer threatens to re-export shipment if desired price not fixed: officials

First consignment of Russian Sputnik vaccine being shifted to a storage facility in Karachi in this file phot.

KARACHI: The importer of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine has threatened to “re-export” the 50,000 doses it brought to Pakistan if the company's desired price is not set by the government, officials said on Tuesday.

The importer also said selling the shipment to some other country was “an option if an appropriate price is not fixed” of their product.

“AGP Limited, which imported the 50,000 doses of the Sputnik V vaccine, has threatened to re-export the shipment if their desired price is not fixed by the government. The drug pricing committee of DRAP (Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan had recommended Rs8,449 for two doses of the vaccine, which is not acceptable to the importer,” an official of the federal government told on condition of anonymity.

Read more: Pakistan receives first shipment of Russian Sputnik vaccine for coronavirus

The official maintained that during "verbal communication", the importer threatened that they had the option of re-exporting it or selling it to some other country if an appropriate rate, as per government’s formula of 40% in addition to landing cost of the product, is not applied while fixing the price.

“The government is already under harsh criticism for the price recommended by DRAP’s pricing committee at Rs8,449. It was calculated on the basis of a landing cost of $30 but people are comparing it with the cost of the Russian vaccine in India and criticising the government for fixing higher price as compared to the neighbouring country,” the official added.

Read more: DRAP satisfied with Sputnik V retail price, says Asad Umar

On the other hand, officials at AGP Limited said that they had the "option of re-exporting" the shipment or selling it to some other country where they have been "assured" that they will get a price "over and above their landing cost in Pakistan”.

“The government’s price of Rs8,449 is not affordable for us because in addition to landing cost, there is distributor margin, storage and transportation costs, and hospitals and institutions will also take their service charges,” an official of the company said.

The official said that in addition to re-export of the vaccine, "some other options" were also available to them, without elaborating any further.

According to the official, the company is still negotiating with the authorities to settle the issue.

“We are going to wait for a couple of days to resolve this issue but it is already over a week now and the shipment is [stored needlessly] at the cold storage. It could have been used by now to vaccinate at least 25,000 people who could afford to get it, as for millions, government’s vaccine is not available,” the official said.

The official insisted that there were several health institutions, corporations and large hospitals which were willing to get the Russian vaccine at any cost but added that without the government’s approval, they could not provide it to anyone locally.

Earlier, the federal government had asked DRAP's pricing committee to “reconsider and reassess” the Maximum Retail Price (MRP) of Sputnik V vaccine doses after AGP Limited expressed its dissatisfaction over the price recommended by the regulator.

Government officials had earlier said that AGP wants a retail price between Rs12,500-13,000 for two doses of their vaccine based on their landing cost, freight charges, cold storage and other expenses, while the drug pricing committee was unwilling to review its decision based on the data it had for fixing the price of the vaccine.