Wednesday, June 16

Hungary Pays $36 Per Dose for Chinese Vaccine


Hungary has agreed to pay about $36 a dose for the Covid-19 vaccine made by Sinopharm, a Chinese state-owned company, according to contracts made public by a senior Hungarian official on Thursday. That appears to make the Sinopharm shot among the most expensive in the world.

Hungary has agreed to buy five million doses of the Sinopharm vaccine, priced at 30 euros ($36) each, according to contracts that Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff, Gergely Gulyas, uploaded to his Facebook page. The contract is between the Hungarian government and a third-party vendor, and that price far surpasses what the European Union has agreed to pay for vaccines from Western manufacturers.

The European Union has said it would pay 15.50 per dose for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, according to Reuters, which cited an internal E.U. document. For AstraZeneca, it agreed to pay $2.15 per dose, according to Belgium’s budget secretary.

The contracts that Mr. Gulyas published also show that Hungary, which has recorded nearly half a million coronavirus cases and more than 16,000 deaths, has agreed to pay $9.95 per dose for the Russian Sputnik-V vaccine.

The company from which Hungary is buying the vaccine underwent a change in ownership two months before the transaction, was awarded the contract after the government exempted it from having to take part in an open public procurement process, said Miklos Ligeti, legal director for Transparency International Hungary, an anticorruption group. (Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article misstated which company had changed ownership.)

Such arrangements raise red flags for anticorruption watchdogs, who warn that the involvement of third parties increases the risk of price gouging. “We don’t know how much this company actually paid for this vaccine,” Mr. Ligeti said.

Given publicly available data on this company, Mr. Ligeti pointed to figures that he described as worrying. “The government of Hungary assigned a contract with a net value of 150 million euros” — $179 million — “to a company with registered capital of €9,000” ($10,700), he said.

Hungary is one of the few European countries to sign a deal with Sinopharm, which has promoted itself to developing countries at a time when many richer nations are hoarding doses by Western drugmakers like Pfizer and Moderna. A major selling point has been Sinopharm’s manufacturing capacity: It has said it can make up to three billion doses by the end of this year.

The Sinopharm price is extraordinary in part because the company, unlike the Western vaccine makers, has not published detailed data from Phase 3 trials.

Sinopharm is mass-producing two vaccines. It says that the first, made in conjunction with the Beijing Institute of Biological Products, has an efficacy rate of 79 percent, and that the second, made with the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products, is 72.5 percent effective.

Adam Liptak contributed reporting.



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