‘Outstretched’ SII chief seeks ₹3,000-crore fillip to boost supply
At a time when the demand for the Covid-19 vaccine is rising in the country amid a surge in new cases, the chief executive officer of Serum Institute of India (SII), Adar Poonawalla, on Tuesday said that the company was “very outstretched” for capacity at the moment.
He added that SII needed around ₹3,000 crore to scale up production from the current capacity of 60 to 65 million per month, and that the process would take roughly three months.
“We are supplying the vaccine in the Indian market at approximately ₹ 150-160. The average price of the vaccine is approximately $20 ( ₹1,500)... because of the Modi government’s request, we are providing vaccines at subsidised rates... It is not that we are not making profits... but we are not making a super profit, which is key to re-investing,” Poonawalla told NDTV.
“This (the amount needed) would be roughly ₹3,000 crores. The process takes 85 days, so it would be just under three months before we scale up operations,” he added.
The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is manufactured by SII and sold in India under the brand name Covishield.
“We are supplying two million doses per day. It varies... but we are making between 60 and 65 million per month. We have given, so far, over 100 million doses to India, and exported over 60 million,” Poonawalla said in the interview, adding that supply constraints will only ease once other manufacturers also scale up capacity.
“We hope that, with them, even Covishield will increase capacity to 100 to 110 million doses a month (but) that’s only going to happen from June. That’s where we are at the moment,” he said.
Covishield is one of the two Covid-19 vaccines approved for use in India. The other Covid-19 vaccine is Covaxin that is co-developed by Bharat Biotech and India Council of Medical Research.
“Very stressed to put it quite frankly. The globe needs this vaccine... we are prioritising the needs of India (but) we are still short of being able to supply to every Indian,” Poonawalla told NDTV.
Last month, COVAX facility, a global risk-sharing mechanism for pooled procurement and equitable distribution of Covid-19 vaccines, said that it was looking at supply delays to the tune of at least 60-70 million doses produced by SII to lower-income countries because India was slowing down its Covid-19 vaccine exports.
“We provided Serum Institute of India 150 million in pre finance to ramp up production. Our agreement stipulates 50% of production to be given to COVAX. Through Serum Institute of India, COVAX provides Covid-19 vaccines to more than 60 low income countries, primarily in Asia and Africa. If Government of India bans export of doses, all those countries would suffer,” Anuradha Gupta, deputy, chief executive officer, Gavi- the vaccine alliance that is co-leading COVAX facility, told HT on March 26.