A minimum of 100 million doses of Covishield – a coronavirus vaccine that this morning was said to be 90 per cent effective under certain conditions – will be available by January and hundreds of million could be ready by the end of February, Adar Poonawalla of the Serum Institute of India told NDTV on Monday evening.
A single dose (two are recommended at this stage) will cost up to Rs 1,000 if purchased from the pharmacy, but the government will buy 90 per cent of the supply at Rs 250 per dose, he explained.
Mr Poonawalla, whose company has an agreement with the government to mass-manufacture the vaccine, said around 40 million doses had already been produced.
“It will be another two-three months for the vaccine to be available in India. By January we will have 100 million doses, minimum. The target set by the government is 300 to 400 million doses by July. We are putting a MRP of Rs 1,000 – for the private market it will be around Rs 500 or 600 (+ Rs 200 for the distributor) and Rs 250 or less for the government,” Mr Poonawalla said.
He also said the 10 per cent expected to be released to the private market is unlikely to be available before March, making vaccine distribution the preserve of the government till then. The delay, he said, would be because of time needed to complete licensing formalities.
“Till then the general public is not likely to get it easily. They will have to go to government distribution points and, if the are eligible, then they will get it. Otherwise they have to wait till March… because the priority is to vaccine our most vulnerable,” Mr Poonawalla said.
Last week Mr Poonawalla, who said the Serum Institute was concentrating on production for India, said it could take till 2024 for every Indian to get inoculated.
In June sources told NDTV that front-line workers like doctors and nurses would be first in line to be vaccinated. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to chair a virtual meet with chief ministers of the eight worst affected states on Tuesday. He is expected to discuss vaccine distribution.
This morning pharma giant AstraZeneca, who developed the vaccine candidate jointly with the University of Oxford, said it could be around 90 per cent effective when administered over two doses separated by a month. This is based on data from trials in Britain and Brazil.
More crucially, the Covishield vaccine works out to be cheaper than the two other candidates that have released trial data in recent days – Pfizer and Moderna. It can also be transported and stored at fridge temperatures; experts say this makes it easier to distribute, especially in poor countries.
India is the second worst-affected country with over 90 lakh confirmed cases and 1.34 lakh deaths. As of this morning, there are around 4.43 lakh active cases in the country.
With input from Reuters