Pharmaceutical company Serum Institute of India on Saturday said that the higher price it has quoted for its Covishield vaccine in the third phase of inoculation against coronavirus in India was due to the need to scale up its infrastructure. The company put out a statement after multiple reports criticised it and the government for differential pricing of the vaccine.

The company added that the low price at which the vaccine was initially provided was based on advance funding given by the governments. Only a limited portion of the vaccines manufactured will be provided to private hospitals at the rate of Rs 600 per shot, the company said in a statement signed by Chief Executive Officer Adar Poonawalla.

On April 21, Serum Institute had announced that Covishield will be sold at Rs 400 a shot to state governments and Rs 600 to private hospitals starting May 1.

The vaccine maker’s comment came after it was pointed out that a price of Rs 600 per dose would mean that Indians getting inoculated with Covishield at private hospitals from May 1 could end up paying the highest price in the world for this vaccine.

This is despite Poonawalla saying earlier that that the firm was making a profit even at a price of Rs 150 per dose, The Indian Express reported. The newspaper suggested that the nearly $8 price of the vaccine is higher than the $2.15 to $5.25 cost Serum Institute was charging for a shot in other other countries, including in the United States, United Kingdom and European Union nations.

In its response, Serum Institute said that the comparison was an “inaccurate” one as the initial supply price depended on the funding provided by countries for “at-risk vaccine manufacturing”. The term refers to the financial assistance given by governments to vaccine manufacturers before the shots receive formal approval.

“The initial supply price of Covishield for all government immunisation programme, including India, has been the lowest,” Serum Institute said in the statement.

Meanwhile, the Centre on Saturday said that it will continue to procure Covishield from Serum Institute of India at a price of Rs 150 per dose, the price it has been getting the vaccines so far. The health ministry added that doses procured by the Centre will continue to be provided free of cost to states, as has been the case since the vaccination process began in India.

However, the Centre’s statement goes against what Poonawalla told CNBC-TV18 in an interview earlier this week. Poonawalla had said that his company will sell Covishield doses to Centre at Rs 400 per dose – the same price at which it will sell the shots to the states – once the current purchase order ends.

All Indians above the age of 18 will be eligible for receiving the coronavirus vaccine in the third phase of inoculation, starting on May 1.