The Serum Institute of India has signed a contract with the Centre to supply 11 million [1.1 crore] doses of its coronavirus vaccine at a price of Rs 200 each, The Indian Express reported on Monday.
The firm is the local maker of Covishield, the vaccine developed by the Oxford University and pharmaceuticals company AstraZeneca. The vaccine was given emergency-use approval earlier this month, along with Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin.
Cyrus Poonawalla, the chairperson of the Poonawalla group, told the newspaper that the company was expecting a bigger order for vaccines next week.
Poonawalla said that the private sector should also be allowed to simultaneously roll out the vaccine. “Why should the private market and vulnerable groups – mainly elderly people – be deprived till the government starts distributing in their priority areas?” he told The Indian Express. Poonawalla added that the Serum Institute had a stock of 50 million [5 crore] doses for immediate distribution.
The Serum Institute is likely to begin dispatching vaccine doses from Tuesday. It needs to cover more than 20 locations across several states. The vaccines will be transported via air and road.
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An unidentified official from the Serum Institute told The Times of India that the company will supply the initial 100 million [10 crore] doses to the government at Rs 200 per dose. The vaccine will, however, cost Rs 1,000 when it is made available in the market by June.
The Centre is planning to inoculate 30 crore people in the first phase of the massive vaccination drive, which is set to begin on January 16. This would require 60 crore vaccine doses.
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said that the Centre will bear the cost of vaccinating about 3 crore healthcare and frontline workers against the coronavirus in the first phase of India’s massive inoculation drive. He added that people above the age of 50 and those with comorbidities will get the vaccine next.
To assess the preparedness at all levels before the actual rollout of the vaccine, a third dry run on January 8 covered 4,895 sites across 615 districts in 33 states and Union Territories. Experts have said that vaccinating a billion people, including hundreds of millions of adults for the first time, against Covid-19 will be a daunting task in the first tranche.
India has so far registered 1,04,66,595 coronavirus cases and 1,51,160 deaths. As of Monday morning, the country’s active cases stood at 2,22,526 and the number of recoveries reached, 1,00,92,909. Meanwhile, the number of cases of the United Kingdom mutant virus strain rose to 96.