The government must spend about Rs 80,000 crore for the next one year to distribute COVID-19 vaccine to every person in India, Serum Institute of India chief executive officer Adar Poonawalla said today, calling it a “concerning challenge”.
“Will the government of India have 80,000 crores available, over the next one year? Because that’s what @MoHFW_INDIA (health ministry) needs, to buy and distribute the vaccine to everyone in India. This is the next concerning challenge we need to tackle,” Poonawalla tweeted at 3:03 PM.
India is at the forefront of COVID vaccine research, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said on 4 September, addressing the US-India Summit.
The CEO of the world’s largest vaccine maker said further that all manufacturers and the government needed to plan and guide to cater to the immense need for COVID-19 immunisation.
The Serum Institute is currently conducting the Phase III clinical trial of a vaccine. AstraZeneca PLC and the University of Oxford are co-developing the vaccine. The Pune-based company plans to manufacture a billion doses of this vaccine.
The company entered an agreement to produce another billion doses of a vaccine that Novavax is developing. The Serum Institute will start the Phase III trials of this second vaccine next month.
The Serum Institute is developing its own vaccine too. It is currently in pre-clinical trial phase.
Besides the institute, there are two companies, Zydus Cadila and Bharat Biotech International, which are conducting human trials in Phase II. There are half-a-dozen other indigenous candidates that are in pre-clinical trials.
Poonawalla’s estimate of Rs 80,000 crore (roughly $ 11 billion) is substantially higher than that of international brokerage Sanford Bernstein: $ 6 billion. However, the brokerage realistically expects the government to spend only $ 2 billion to procure COVID-19 vaccines for just 30% of the population. That is half the people required to reach herd immunity. The government, the brokerage firm believes, will urge the remaining people to procure it from the private market.
Serum Institute of India is a manufacturer of immunobiological drugs including vaccines in India. It was founded by Cyrus Poonawalla in 1966. The company is a subsidiary of the holding company Poonawalla Investment and Industries.