Serum will provide 50-60 million vials to India by February: Poonawalla
Serum Institute of India (SII) chief executive Adar Poonawalla on Tuesday said that even as his firm is providing 11 million doses of the Oxford University-AstraZeneca produced Covishield vaccine in India in the first phase, there are plans to provide 50-60 million vials either by January or February.
Early Tuesday, the first consignment of the vaccines in three trucks rolled out of the SII facility at Hadapsar in eastern part of city for transportation to various locations across the country. The doses were taken to 12 cities through flights in the day and later to Mumbai via road.
“Currently, 11 million doses of the vaccine are being rolled out across the country and there are plans to provide 50 to 60 more doses by January-February. We have given priority to India. We will provide as many doses as the nation demands. Rest of the vaccines, we will export. We are getting request from Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Africa, and there are COVAX partners also,” said Poonawalla, a 39-year-old businessman who joined the world’s largest vaccine manufacturing firm that his father founded in 2001.
As per the purchase order released by the government of India, another 45 million doses are scheduled to be bought by the government by April this year.
Poonawalla while interacting with reporters at his facility said that the real challenge lies in taking the vaccine to the “common man, to the vulnerable groups of people and to healthcare workers”.
“Our trucks left the SII facility early morning and now the vaccine is being distributed in the entire country. This is a proud and historic moment as scientists, experts and all other stakeholders took great efforts while making this vaccine in less than a year,” he said.
Poonawalla said that the SII has offered the vaccine to the Centre at a special price of ₹200. “This is one of the most affordable vaccines in the world and we are offering it to the government at a special price just to support the Prime Minister’s vision and to support the aam aadami (common man) of our country,” he added.
He also said that once SII gets the requisite permission, the vaccine will be made available in the private market at the cost ₹1,000. Poonawalla further said that SII is not only providing the vaccine in India, “but it is also committed to providing it to other countries who are looking at India at this point”.
Covishield is developed by Oxford University and British-Swedish company AstraZeneca and manufactured by the SII.
A puja was performed before the three temperature controlled trucks rolled out of the Serum Institute gates shortly before 5am and moved towards the Pune airport, about 15 km away, from where the vaccines were flown across India.
Poonawalla further said, “The government of India will buy the vaccine at the rate of ₹200 per dose for 10 crore doses, and thereafter, the cost of the vaccine will go up. The vaccine we are offering to the government will be given to the common man, the poor, vulnerable groups and healthcare workers free of cost.”
He also added that the SII’s production capacity is bigger than the world and that is why the company is under the maximum pressure (to manufacture) it.
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