No subsidy, no slashing of rates: Govt rejects demand to cap flu vaccine prices

Srinagar:  Jammu and Kashmir government has rejected the demand of providing subsidized or putting a cap on the prices of flu vaccines.

“The maximum retail price (MRP) is fixed and it can’t be slashed down. But if someone is overpricing or selling the vaccines beyond the fixed MRP, just tell us we will take action against him,” Atal Dulloo, Financial Commissioner of Health Department, told The Kashmir Monitor.

Dulloo remarks came at a time when demand for flu shots has spiraled in the Kashmir Valley. Prices of flu vaccines are going through the roof with different companies putting different Maximum Retail Price (MRPs) for the same medicines.

“I cannot afford the vaccine. It costs over one thousand rupees. How can the poor afford costly vaccines when they are battling for their livelihood? If the government couldn’t provide these vaccines for free, then at least they should have provided these at subsidized rates,” said Mohammad Yousuf Dar, a resident of Anantnag.

Health experts have recommended people to take the vaccine shots as a precautionary measure to keep seasonal flu, H1n1, and pneumonia at bay. It is given to people before the onset of the flu season which begins around October every year. The peak of seasonal flu in Kashmir is around December and January.

 “I enquired from a medical store about the influenza vaccine but found that the rates were too high. I`m suffering from diabetes and need the vaccine given the Covid -19 pandemic”, said Rashid Ahmad a resident of Srinagar.

President, Doctors Association Kashmir (DAK), Dr. Suhail Naik told The Kashmir Monitor that children, pregnant ladies, and elderly people should get these flu shots keeping in view the ongoing pandemic.

“The government should provide these vaccines at subsidized rates. For people living below the poverty line, the vaccines should be given free, “Dr. Naik said.

Dr. Nisar-ul-Hassan, President of another faction of Doctors Association Kashmir (DAK), said it is ironical that the doctors and health workers, who can easily afford these vaccines, have been provided free vaccines instead of the poor.

 “Cost is the big barrier.  A flu vaccine is being sold at Rs 1680 in the market, which goes beyond the capacity of a poor”, he added.

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Currently pursuing Honors in Journalism and Mass Communication at Cluster University Srinagar

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