Serum Instt Expects Govt Nod by March-April

Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII) is expecting to get permission to export the Oxford University-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, Covishield, by March-April, said company CEO Adar Poonawalla.

He was responding to a media query about the possible time frame for exporting vaccine to other countries including Bangladesh. The SII has signed an agreement with the Bangladesh based Pharma company Beximco to supply vaccine.

''The only condition (for the approval of the vaccine in India) is that we can’t sell it in the private market or export it for now,'' Poonawalla told journalists when asked about the conditions behind the approval for Covishield.

The central government has barred the export of the vaccine, manufactured by the SII, as one of the conditions for its approval.

The CEO of SII said he respected the government’s decision on exporting the vaccine to private markets at the moment and ''would like to go as per their guidance''.

However, Poonawalla added: ''I am sure these restrictions will be eased out very soon once the most vulnerable population starts getting vaccinated. Optimistically, by March-April we should have permissions in place.'' 

The company, in September, had announced its association with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and vaccine alliance GAVI to deliver an additional 10 crore doses of the vaccine to other low and middle-income countries, including India. However, with the government ban, the other countries might have to wait for a little longer.

Covishield was approved by India''=s apex drug regulatory body, the Drug Controller General of India, for emergency use authorization Sunday.

The SII, which is the world’s largest vaccine maker by volume, is currently producing 6 to 7 crore doses per month, which will increase further up to 10 crore doses per month by March 2021, 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 Rs 200 per dose since they will be buying in a larger volume. The private market will get it at Rs 1,000 per dose. However, this will open up only after March-April,'' Poonawalla said.

The company is in the advanced stages of signing the contract with the government. The central government is likely to procure 6.6 crore doses from SII to vaccinate three crore beneficiaries in the first phase at Rs 200 per dose with an estimated budget of over Rs 1,300 crore. However, Poonawalla said he doesn’t want to comment on it right now.

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