Serum Institute of India Chief Executive Officer Adar Poonawalla on Tuesday said that his company has decided to supply the first 100 million [10 crore] doses of its coronavirus vaccine, named Covishield, at Rs 200 only to the government, ANI reported.
“We’ve given a special price of Rs 200 for the first 100 million doses only to the government on their request, that we want to support common man, vulnerable, poor, healthcare workers,” Poonawalla told the news agency. “After that we will be selling it at Rs 1,000 in private markets.”
The Serum Institute CEO added: “To the government of India, we will still maintain a very reasonable price but it will be a little bit more than Rs 200 which is our cost price. So we decided not to make any profit, we wanted to support the nation for the first 100 million doses.”
Poonawalla called the beginning of the vaccine’s shipping across the country a “historic moment”. The key challenge was to the deliver the vaccine to everyone in the country, he added.
The Serum Institute CEO said that his firm manufactured 70-80 million [7 to 8 crore] vaccine doses every month. “Planning is underway to see how many will be given to India and foreign countries,” he told ANI.
On Tuesday morning, the Serum Institute of India dispatched the first consignment of its coronavirus vaccine to 13 cities. More than 56 lakh doses were shipped by air to Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Guwahati, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Vijayawada, Bhubaneswar, Patna, Bengaluru, Lucknow and Chandigarh.
The government has ordered 1.01 crore doses of Covishield at Rs 200 per dose. It plans to buy a total of 5.60 crore doses by April. Poonawalla told NDTV that the remainder of the government’s order will be supplied by the February.
The Union health ministry also announced at a press briefing on Tuesday that it has signed an agreement with Bharat Biotech to procure 55 lakh doses of its coronavirus vaccine named Covaxin. The company will provide 38.5 lakh doses to the government at a price of Rs 295 each, while 16.5 lakh doses will be made free of cost.
India’s vaccination plan
The Centre is planning to inoculate 30 crore people in the first phase of the massive vaccination drive, which is scheduled to begin on January 16. This would require 60 crore vaccine doses.
On Monday, 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.
The government had approved Serum Institute and Bharat Biotech’s vaccines for emergency use on January 3. The Serum Institute is the local maker of Covishield, the vaccine developed by Oxford University and pharmaceuticals company AstraZeneca. Bharat Biotech has manufactured India’s first indigenous vaccine candidate Covaxin in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research and the National Institute of Virology.
Experts have, however, questioned the government’s decision to clear Covaxin without the publication of data from its phase-3 human trials.
India on Tuesday registered 12,584 new coronavirus cases, taking the overall count to 1,04,79,179. This was the lowest daily rise in infections in seven months. The country has reported over 1.51 lakh deaths so far.