The chief executive officer of the Serum Institute of India, which is the local maker of the coronavirus vaccine developed by Oxford University and pharmaceuticals company AstraZeneca, on Sunday said that the company was given emergency use approval in India on the condition that the shots are not exported. In an interview to AP, Adar Poonawalla said India will not allow the export of the vaccine to other countries for several months.
The government wants to ensure that vulnerable populations in India are protected, Poonawalla said after the shot was approved for emergency use in the world’s second-most populous country. “We can only give [the vaccines] to the government of India at the moment,” the CEO added. “We can’t vaccinate everybody right now. We can prioritise.”
He said the company has also been barred from selling the vaccine on the private market to prevent hoarding. “We’ll have to go by their [the government’s] guidance and wisdom because they have said that we cannot export the vaccine or give it to the private market,” he told NDTV. “These have been our discussions at the movement and I respect that because they want to give it to the vulnerable people.”
The Serum Institute is still waiting to sign a formal supply deal with the Indian government, but the company has put out the prices. Poonawalla said the first 100 million doses of the vaccine will be sold to the government at a “special price” of Rs 200, and after this the rates will be higher based on the tendering process. In the private market, the vaccine will be sold at Rs 1,000 per dose. The vaccine needs a booster dose, taking the total cost to Rs 2,000, he told NDTV.
He also said the Pune-based company was planning to give 200 million to 300 million doses of the vaccine to the COVAX programme, which is backed by the World Health Organization and seeks to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines to the poor countries. The Serum Institute was in the process of signing a larger contract with COVAX, Poonawalla said.
However, with the exports restrictions imposed by the Centre, the company probably cannot send vaccines until March or April.