The cost of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca will total US$3-4 per dose for the Government and US$6-8 for the private sector.
This is according to Adar Poonawalla, the chief executive officer of the Serum Institute of India (SII) – the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer. Poonawalla said “we want the vaccine to be affordable and accessible to all. The government of India will receive it at a far more affordable price of USD$3-4, since they will be buying in a larger volume.” The news came in the wake of the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine – Covishield – being granted emergency use authorisation by the Government ahead of a mass vaccination campaign described by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the world’s largest.
“The new year has brought with it another big achievement. India’s scientists have successfully developed not just one, but two made-in-India COVID vaccines,” the Prime Minister said recently. “In India, the world’s largest COVID vaccine programme is also about to begin. For this, the country is very proud of the contributions of its scientists. Every countryperson is indebted to all our scientists and technicians.”
The SII – and, consequently, India – is expected to be at the forefront of the global vaccination campaign against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) – the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. “Because of the large volumes coming out of India and of course the affordable vaccines, there is no other country that will contribute more towards ending the pandemic than India,” Poodawalla said last year.
More recently, he said “we will start exporting the vaccine post the government’s approval and talks are going on. Our priority list will see us cater to the Indian market first, then the COVAX countries. Optimistically, by March-April we should have permissions in place.”
The Government anticipates the need for 300 million doses by July, prioritising the at-risk and frontline workers for inoculations in the first phase of its immunisation campaign. Dr Vinod K. Paul of government think tank Niti Aayog has said the stockpile is sufficient to vaccinate the priority group in the first phase. Nonetheless, the task of inoculations has faced a number of fears and controversies owing to logistical challenges and the quick pace of the regulatory approval.