Pune based Serum Institute of India (SII), the world's largest manufacturer of vaccines, is going to scale up manufacturing of Covishield, the Covid-19 vaccine it licensed from the Oxford University-Astra Zeneca combine, to 100 million doses a month from the current 50-60 million doses for stockpiling now, said Adar Poonamwala, CEO of SII.
"We have indicated a price to the Prime Minister, (who visited the Serum facility today), and priority of supplies will be India and then the Covax Alliance countries," said Adar in a press meet after the PM Narendra Modi's visit to the facilities in Pune. Serum will have a capacity to make over 2.5 billion doses of vaccines a year as it is currently upscaling the capacity from over 1.6 billion doses.
COVAX Alliance, envisaged by the World Health Organisation (WHO), GAVI, the vaccine alliance of a public-private global health partnership and mainly funded by billionaire Bill Gates, is planning to vaccinate over 3 billion worldwide with affordable COVID-19 vaccines in over 90-120 countries. Under this, Serum has received at-risk pre-funding of $300 million from the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation and the GAVI.
"We can provide Rs 5,000 crore of vaccine free for India under this alliance", Adar had told Business Today in a recent interaction. While the US companies like Moderna and Pfizer are talking of selling their vaccines at very high prices, $25-$37 per dose, the COVAX Alliance is pitching to sell at a price of $3-4 per dose, or Rs 225-Rs 250 per dose, as earlier indicated by Adar Poonawalla. He is risking investing over Rs 3,000 crore at Pune to make five vaccines in development, alone for the COVID-19 pandemic.
"My priority is India and the COVAX alliance countries and Africa", said Adar Poonawala. "We can provide three to four million doses by July, if the government wants", he said in a press conference.
He said while some of the western vaccines require -20 degree Celsius to -70 degree Celsius cold chain, Covishield requires only -2 to -8 degree Celsius cold chain, as in normal vaccines and mass immunisation.
Adar said once the data of the global trials are available and after assessing the Indian trials, SSI will approach the Drug Controller General of India to allow marketing the product in the country within the next two weeks.