The government has sent a purchase order of 11 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine to Serum Institute of India (SII), the Pune-based pharmaceutical firm confirmed on 11 January. The cost of the vaccine to the government is Rs 210 per vaccine dose for first 100 million doses.
The announcement comes at a time when Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a virtual meeting with chief ministers of states to discuss the Covid-19 vaccine rollout, which is scheduled to begin on 16 January.
The Drugs Controller General of India (DGCI) had earlier this month given restricted emergency use approval for Serum Institute of India’s Covishield and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin. With these two vaccines, India is set to kickstart the world’s biggest Covid-19 vaccination drive with an aim to inoculate 300 million people at most risk of infection and death by August. The dry runs for the vaccines have been conducted almost all across all districts of the country,
In the first phase of the drive, health workers, both from government and private institutions, will be vaccinated along with sanitation workers, other frontline workers, defence forces, police and other paramilitary forces, the prime minister said in the closing remarks of the meeting.
In the second phase, those above 50 years and those under 50 years with co-morbid conditions will be vaccinated, Modi said.
The Prime Minister said that the state governments will not have to bear the expenses of vaccination of the three crore people in the first phase, the Centre will pay for it.
Adar Poonawalla, chief executive officer, SII, had earlier said that the company had offered the Indian government a special price of Rs 200 for the first 100 million doses of Covishield, less than the $ 3 it had quoted earlier.
At least 70 lakh healthcare workers will be administered the vaccine over the next three months, NITI Aayog Member-Health and chair of the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for Covid-19 (NEGVAC), Dr VK Paul, said.
Dr Cyrus Poonawalla, chairman of the Poonawalla Group of which SII is part, confirmed that a deal had been signed with the government. “We are expecting a bigger order next week,” he said on 11 January evening.
SII and Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech received the Drug Controller General of India’s approval on 3 January for “restricted” use of their Covid-19 vaccines in an “emergency” situation. Following the approvals, SII CEO Adar Poonawalla had announced that SII would offer the government a “special” price of Rs 200 per dose for the first 100 million doses of Covishield.
Asked whether the price still remained Rs 200, Cyrus said on 11 January, “Yes”. SII officials said this was the rate at which the government would buy the vaccines from SII.