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Serum Institute CEO Adar Poonawalla
Serum Institute CEO Adar Poonawalla

Serum Institute may sell Oxford vaccine at 500-600 per dose in private market

'India will be getting it at far cheaper, probably around $3-4 because they'll be buying very huge volumes of hundreds of millions of doses,' says Serum CEO at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit

New Delhi: Serum Institute may sell covid-19 vaccine Covishield at around 500- 600 per dose in the private market, around twice the $3 per shot it will cost the Indian government as well as the COVAX facility, chief executive officer Adar Poonawalla said at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit on Thursday.

“Government of India will be getting it at far cheaper, probably around $3-4 because they'll be buying very huge volumes of hundreds of millions of doses. So they'll get the access to the price which is similar to what COVAX has got, which is $3 and the general public probably have to pay around 500- 600," Poonawalla said.

The world’s largest vaccine manufacturer by volume is in a pact with the co-developer of the vaccine, British firm AstraZeneca plc. for manufacturing of about 1 billion doses of the vaccine and its distribution and sale in India and other low- and Middle-income countries.

Poonawalla on Thursday also said that the company plans to apply for an emergency use authorisation from the Drug Controller General of India V.G. Somani for its vaccine next month, and get the regulatory greenlight in January. The process, however, is contingent on robust efficacy data from Astrazeneca’s trials in the UK, which is expect by the end of this month.

“We're basing the assumption of an emergency licensure based on positive UK results. So these are the caveats. That if we get good UK result end of November or early December, we apply for an emergency licensure use. So you have the vaccine for the vulnerable populations by January or February. And then by March or April, for the general public," Poonawalla said, adding that if any of these milestones get delayed, then Serum’s own plans could be delayed.

If things go according to the plan, the company plans to have around 300-400 million shots of the two-dose vaccine ready by March or April, he said.

The company is currently expanding its capacity for manufacturing the vaccine to around 100 million doses from around 50-60 million doses currently.

“At the moment, we're at a 50-60 million capacity on a monthly basis as an output, by February, we will have gone to 100 million doses per month. Right now I've dedicated two facilities (for Covishield production) and will dedicate another two facilities by January (or) February, which are getting validated," he said adding that the doubling of monthly output is for both India and COVAX.

The company is in talks with Nepal and certain African countries, but has not signed a bilateral pact for vaccine supply with any other country other than Bangladesh. For Africa, Poonawalla said, he expects COVAX to handle a significant proportion of doses.

Serum Institute does not plan to sign pacts with other countries currently because it may not be able to provide vaccines to those countries, especially since India’s 1 billion plus population will be the company’s primary concern, he said.

Going forward, the company also has plans to mas manufacture a vaccine developed by US-based Novavax, and three other candidates, and the company plans to launch one of those vaccines every three to four months, with Novavax’s candidate expected by the April or May, he said.

Pune-based Serum Institute has also signed pacts with Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, for manufacturing and delivery of up to 200 million doses of covid-19 vaccines from Oxford and Novavax for COVAX--a facility jointly established by Gavi, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) for equitable access to covid-19 vaccines.

In return, the company has received $300 million to fund the operation, a very risky one considering that the company would be manufacturing the vaccines even before it has received regulatory approval.

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