Nepal is reportedly paying $10 per dose © VCG/VCG via Getty Images
Nepal is reportedly paying $10 per dose © VCG/VCG via Getty Images

Chinese displeasure after vaccine price revealed

23 June 2021

China’s Sinopharm vaccine has become embroiled in controversy after a Nepalese newspaper revealed secret procurement pricing details.

Several Nepalese newspapers reported the country had been forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement when it agreed to purchase 4m doses of the China-manufactured Sinopharm vaccine. The agreement stipulated the price per dose would not be revealed.

The Nepal government was left urgently looking for alternate sources of vaccines after India temporarily blocked vaccine exports in late March when it faced its second wave of coronavirus infections. 

But Indian newspapers including The Hindustan Times questioned the legality and transparency of a public procurement process where the price was not revealed publicly.

The Kathmandu Post reported the Nepalese government was likely to pay $10 per dose for its 4m vaccines. It said two ministers and two government secretaries had confirmed the probable price – though it added the final deal had not yet been signed.

Official Chinese sources have so far not commented on the disclosure but India’s ANI news agency said both Sinopharm and the Chinese embassy in Kathmandu had communicated displeasure at the publication of vaccine procurement price and reminded Nepal of the terms of the deal.

In January 2021 Belgium’s budget secretary inadvertently revealed the EU’s negotiated prices for every major vaccine on Twitter after the EU had promised to keep prices secret in return for discounts.

The EU was paying $2.15 per AstraZeneca vaccine dose whereas the UK and US were expecting to pay about $3 and $4, respectively, per dose.

The EU was paying $14.70 per Pfizer dose, compared to $19.50 in the US, and $18 per Moderna dose, compared to around $15 a dose in the US, whose government partially subsidised development of the vaccine.

The single dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine was costing the EU $8.50 per dose.

A week after approving Sinopharm for emergency use the WHO also approved the other major Chinese-produced vaccine, Sinovac, for emergency use.

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