ISLAMABAD/KARACHI: A Pakistani pharmaceutical company will roll out the country’s first privately imported coronavirus vaccine for Rs12,268 today, Friday, by supplying it to three hospitals in Karachi, a company official confirmed to Arab News.
"This price is fixed by the government as per the pricing formula devised by the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP)," Umair Mukhtar of AGP Limited said before clarifying that his organization had not determined the price.
Mukhtar said his firm would provide Sputnik V to Aga Khan, OMI and South City hospitals in Pakistan’s southern city of Karachi.
"We won't be responsible if the hospitals take any service charges or something other than the fixed price," he said, adding that his company would be selling the Russian vaccine to all government authorized hospitals and medical facilities.
Arab News could not independently verify the organization's pricing claim or if it had actually reached an accommodation with the government.
Earlier in the day, a provincial Pakistani court allowed AGP to sell 50,000 doses of Sputnik V that the pharmaceutical firm had imported last month, local media reported.
Justice Nadeem Akhter of the Sindh High Court dismissed the government's plea to restrict AGP Limited from selling the vaccine for a week until its maximum price was fixed.
At the onset of Thursday's hearing, a lawyer representing DRAP told the court that AGP had imported the vaccine before the government could determine the price, saying the management of the company would have to return the extra amount if it sold Sputnik V for a rate higher than the one determined by the government.
In response, the opposing counsel said the firm wanted to sell the vaccine for Rs12,226 in the local market and it was up to the people if they would pay the price or not.
Justice Akhter questioned why the government had failed to fix the price until now, despite the vaccine having been privately imported more than two weeks ago.
"The third wave of the coronavirus pandemic is here, and we cannot stop the sale of vaccines," he observed. "It should be administered to people at the earliest."
A day before, another bench of the same court had instructed the federal government to fix the price of the Russian vaccine within a week without issuing any directives about its sale.
The Russian vaccine is the first to be imported by a private firm in Pakistan.
Last week, the government allowed AGP to sell the vaccine for a maximum price of Rs8,449 ($54), but the company rejected the decision and claimed it had imported the product for a much higher rate.
In February, Pakistan said it would allow private companies to import coronavirus vaccines and agreed to exempt such imports from price caps. However, the country's health chief reversed the decision earlier this month, asking DRAP to recommend a price that would be approved by the cabinet.
During Wednesday's Sindh High Court proceedings, AGP accused the government of "deception" by first allowing private import of the COVID-19 vaccine and then making it impossible for the company to bring it to the local market.
Transparency International-Pakistan also wrote a letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan last week, saying that the global price for Sputnik V was $10 per dose and the one recommended in Pakistan was 160 percent higher than the international rate.
The watchdog urged the prime minister to "cancel" the private import of the vaccine, citing concerns over price and its potential for corruption in the health sector.