40-50 million Covid vaccine stockpiled by SII, India to get most of it

(This story originally appeared in on Dec 29, 2020)

NEW DELHI: India will initially get most of the 40-50 million ‘Covishield’ vaccine shots stockpiled by the Serum Institute of India (SII), since exports would require the World Health Organisation’s pre-qualification, which is likely to take around a month after regulatory approval.

The Pune-based vaccine manufacturer SII is expects to recieve the emergency use authorisation for the vaccine in next few days and the stockpiled doses of ‘Covishield’ are being augmented every week, its chief executive Adar Poonawalla said.

Poonawalla said the roll-out of the vaccine can be expected in January. “We will get some good news this new year…All the data has been submitted and we must respect the process as regulators are evaluating data,” Poonawalla said, underlining approvals are expected in the UK and India almost simultaneously.

TOI had reported on Monday that authorities in India have found the data submitted by SII “satisfactory” and are likely to grant emergency use authorisation in a matter of days. SII plans to produce 100 million doses by March 2021 when its third facility becomes operational and this will allow it to reach 300 million doses by July.

“Once we get regulatory approvals in a few days, it will depend upon the government to decide how much they can take and how fast,” Poonwalla said. He also added that while the vaccine will be priced at around Rs 1,000 in the private market, it will be sold at a far lower price to the government which will buy in bulk and ensure immunisation of a majority of people against the deadly infection.

As per the Covid-19 vaccination plan drawn by the government, around 30 crore ‘priority’ population including healthcare and frontline workers, people above 50 years age and those below 50 but with co-morbidities will be inoculated in the first phase, likely to be over by July. While Covishield is a two-dose vaccine, this would translate into a demand of around 60 crore doses for the first phase.

While Poonawalla said supplies are expected to ease from August when other manufacturers are also likely to ramp up production and start supplies, the government is hopeful that more than one vaccine will be approved for emergency use by end of January. In fact the government expects some four-five vaccines to recieve approval and availability to improve from March.

SII is also into an agreement to supply 200 million doses of the anti-Covid vaccine to COVAX – the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility – of which India is also a part. “There will be plenty of vaccine to go around Covax countries. Initially, we may give most of the volumes to India. We have said we would give 50% of everything we make to India and Covax,” Poonawalla said.

SII also launched on Monday its Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine Pneumosil priced at $3 per dose for the public market and little over $10 per dose in the private market. The vaccine provides protection against 10 variants of pneumococcus bacteria that causes pneumonia, meningitis, ear, and blood infections in children.

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