Producing Enough Covishield Vaccine for India is Not Easy; So Far Supplied 15 Crore Doses: Adar Poonawalla of Serum
Serum Institute of India Pvt Ltd (SII), the Covishield vaccine maker, is working very closely with the Indian government and so far, it had supplied 15 crore doses out of total order of 26 crore doses, says, Adar C Poonawalla, chief executive (CEO) of SII. He was responding to media reports that claimed the last order placed with the two vaccine makers, 100 million doses with SII and 20 million doses with Bharat Biotech was in March this year.
In a statement, he says, "Amongst multiple reports it is important that correct information be shared with the public. Vaccine manufacturing is a specialised process, it is therefore not possible to ramp up production overnight. We also need to understand that the population of India is huge and to produce enough doses for all adults is not an easy task. Even the most advanced countries and companies are struggling in relatively smaller populations."
According to the SII CEO, the company have received total orders of over 26 crore doses of Covishield, out of which it had supplied more than 15 crore doses. "We have also got 100% advance of Rs1,732.50 crore by the Indian government for the next tranche of 11 crore doses in the next few months. Another 11 crore doses would be supplied in the second channel for states and private hospitals in the next few months," Mr Poonawalla added.
"We understand that everyone wants the vaccine to be available in the quickest possible time," the CEO of Serum Institute says, adding, "That is our endeavour too and we are making every effort to achieve that. We shall work even harder and strengthen India's fight against COVID19."
In a statement, the ministry of health and family welfare (MoHFW) also clarified that the government paid Rs1,732.50 crore to Serum on 28th April for 11 crore doses of Covishield vaccine during May, June, and July. Additionally, 100% advance of Rs787.50 crore was released on the same day to Bharat Biotech India Ltd (BBIL) for supply of five crore Covaxin doses during May, June and July 2021, the ministry says.
Earlier, the Financial Times reported Mr Poonawalla as saying that vaccine shortage could continue in India till July.
The production is expected to increase from about 60 million-70 million doses a month to 100 million in July, Mr Poonawalla was quoted as saying in the report.
Few days ago, SII had announced that its vaccine would be priced at Rs400 per dose to state governments and at Rs600 per dose to private hospitals. However, last week, Mr Poonawalla declared that SII would reduce the price to the states to Rs300 from Rs400 per dose.
In a statement last week, Mr Poonawalla had said, "For the next two months, we will address the limited capacity by scaling up the vaccine production. Going ahead, 50% of our capacities will be served to the government of India's vaccination program, and the remaining 50% of the capacity will be for the state governments and private hospitals."
However, owing the complexity, and urgency of the situation, he had urged all corporate and private individuals to access the vaccines through the state facilitated machinery and private health system. "Post four-five months, the vaccines will be made available in retail and free trade," the SII CEO had said.