The biggest vaccine maker of the world, Serum Institute of India (SII), which has applied to the regulator for an emergency use authorisation (EUA) for the Covishield vaccine, is close to signing a supply contract with the Union government. The price is likely to be fixed at Rs 250 per dose of the vaccine, people in the know said.
“Talks for signing a supply contract are now in the final stages of discussion and could be done soon,” said a person close to the development. Another person in the government too confirmed that negotiations were in the final stages.
While there’s lack of clarity on the number of doses that would be procured from the Pune-based company, sources indicated around 60 million could be available soon. By January-February, it’s expected to have at least 100 million doses for the Indian government, if it chooses to procure. Adar Poonawalla, CEO of Serum Institute, said in a Twitter message on Monday, “As promised, before the end of 2020, @SerumInstIndia has applied for emergency use authorisation for the first made-in-India vaccine, Covishield. This will save countless lives, and I thank the Government of India and Sri @narendramodi ji for their invaluable support.”
There is still time before SII can start supplying to the low and medium income countries through Gavi (the vaccine alliance via public-private global health partnership), said an official.
“That would need the approval to come along from Gavi. Till then, SII can supply to India and meet the first phase requirement of the government,” he said.
So far, SII has over 40 million doses ready, but the demand is huge. The company has to supply 200 million doses of Covishield and Novavax vaccine candidate to Gavi and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation at Rs 250 or $3 per dose for 2021 to distribute in low and medium income countries. Also, it will supply 1 billion doses to AstraZeneca, of which around 50 per cent will be for India.
The government has indicated that it would need 60 million doses to vaccinate 30 million people in the priority list. These would include healthcare and frontline essential services workers including municipality staff and public transport operators etc. Subsequently, this would be expanded to include the vulnerable population who have serious co-morbidities, and then to people above 50.
The vaccine would be available in the private market too by March-April, but at a higher price. Poonawalla has indicated a price of around Rs 500-600 per dose in the private market.
“The government would need 400-600 million doses in the initial phases of vaccination up to July and SII would supply a bulk of it,” said one of the sources. SII has been making the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine—Covishield–at its Pune plant and stock-piling it before the regulator’s approval. The target was to have 200 million doses ready by January. Serum has supply commitment for 3.2 billion doses over the next two years. Of this, 500 million of AstraZeneca are likely to be for India
Govt speeding up review of Astra, Pfizer vaccines
India is accelerating its review of coronavirus vaccines developed by Pfizer and AstraZeneca for emergency use, a senior government official said on Monday. The government is pinning its hopes for mass supply of the vaccine on Serum Institute of India, which on Monday lodged the first formal application for emergency use approval for AstraZeneca’s vaccine. Pfizer Inc already applied. “We are in the process of reviewing. It is an accelerated reviewing process,” the official said.