After the centre announced Rs. 4,500 crore to boost production of the Covaxin and Covishield vaccines, Serum Institute of India says it has borrowed from banks to begin ramp-up of its vaccine immediately instead of waiting for the government’s aid to arrive.
Covishield will be sold at Rs 400 a shot to states and Rs 600 to private hospitals, Serum said today. The centre will continue to receive Covishield doses at Rs 150 each.
Days ahead of a new round of vaccinations from May 1 that will include all above 18 – this will require nearly two million more doses a month – Serum’s CEO Adar Poonawalla says he expects to be able to provide 100 million doses per month after July.
“The Rs 3,000 crore amount we keep seeing in the media has been sanctioned. We believe it will come to us very soon. We have not waited but borrowed from the banks to get on with the ramp-up, with the assumption that this funding from the government will reach us very soon…this week,” Adar poonawalla told NDTV in an exclusive interview.
Amid a steep rise in Covid cases in India and reports of shortage, the centre paused exports under its “vaccine maitri” programme. Mr Poonawalla says that situation will stand at least till July.
“There is no clarity on exports and we also right now feel that we should not look at exports for two months during these cases. Maybe in June-July we could start looking at small exports starting again. Right now we are going to prioritise the needs of the nation first,” he said.
Mr Poonawalla recently reached out to US President Joe Biden in a tweet urging him to lift the embargo on the export of raw materials needed for the production of vaccines in India.
“The US government responded through the media. We’ve seen reports of them saying they acknowledge and understand the issue. They are looking into it but (there is) no opening up as yet for the raw materials that they know very well exactly that are required…,” he said.
He added that this problem would not impact prices or manufacturing of Covishield in India but could potentially impact Covovax, a vaccine which should be in the Indian market in the next three months. “No, this will not affect our price because we can find alternative suppliers to the US, but that is just taking more time. And that will affect the stockpiling of Covovax, not Covishield, luckily,” he said.
Covovax is Serum’s version of the protein-based Covid vaccine developed by Novavax.