Covishield to cost government $3-4; will be priced at $6-8 in private market: Serum Institute

Serum Institute CEO Adar Poonawalla says the company will start selling Covishield to the Indian government and GAVI countries in the first stage, followed by the private market.
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The coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford will cost $3-4 per shot (Rs 219-292) to the government and will be priced at double that rate in private market once sales open up, the CEO of its Indian manufacturer on Monday.

Serum Institute of India, the world's largest vaccine manufacturer, has a licence to produce the shot and has already manufactured close to 50 million doses.

CEO Adar Poonawalla said the company would start selling Covishield to the Indian government and GAVI countries in the first stage, followed by the private market.

Indian drug regulator on Sunday approved Covishield and Bharat Biotech's Covaxin for restricted emergency use in the country.

"We want the vaccine to be affordable and accessible to all. The government of India will receive it at a far more affordable price of $3-4, since they will be buying in a larger volume," he said.

Poonawalla, who had taken a huge gamble once the pandemic began to unfold by overhauling Serum's assembly line and "sacrificing" products that were to be destined for Europe and America in anticipation of a COVID-19 vaccine, said the priority supplies will go to India and the GAVI (Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation) nations.

Only after meeting their requirements, "the private market will open up where the pricing would be $6-8 per done," he said.

Serum will have 100 million doses in a month, and will possibly double this number by April.

The government has indicated that it may need 300 million doses before July 2021, with frontline health workers and the elderly given priority.

Poonawalla said Serum was in touch with the government for the vaccine's procurement.

"Initially, we will supply 50 million doses; we will get more confirmations over the course of the next few days," he added.

Exports after government approval

After the regulator's nod, Serum expects formalities to be completed in the next seven to 10 days for the rollout to begin.

When asked if the SII has been barred by the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) not to export the vaccine till vulnerable populations in India are protected, Poonawalla said: "We will start exporting the vaccine post the government's approval and talks are going on".

"Our priority list will see us cater to the Indian market first, then the COVAX countries. Optimistically, by March-April we should have permissions in place," he added.

When asked if the company was negotiating bilateral agreements with other countries too for the vaccine, Poonawalla said: "We have bilateral partnerships with nations like Bangladesh, Myanmar, Morocco, etc".

On the efficacy of Covishield, he noted that the company had proven in its trials that it has a 100 percent efficacy on hospitalisation, implying that there were zero hospitalisations found in the people who took the vaccine globally.

"The efficacy results of the vaccine are quite high if it is administered in two doses within a gap of two to three months," Poonawalla said.

Edited by Teja Lele Desai

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