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Covishield vaccine's revised prices still only 50% of global rates, says SII CEO Adar Poonawalla

SII will never take advantage of the pandemic, we are losing Rs 150 per dose now, says Poonawalla.

April 21, 2021 / 05:38 PM IST
Serum Institute's (SII) CEO Adar Poonawalla said that the new vaccine pricing is still 33-50% of the price of global vaccines anywhere in the world.

Serum Institute's (SII) CEO Adar Poonawalla said that the new vaccine pricing is still 33-50% of the price of global vaccines anywhere in the world.

After announcing the prices of Covishield vaccine for the state governments and private hospitals, Serum Institute of India's (SII) CEO Adar Poonawalla said the new vaccine pricing is still 33-50 percent of the price of global vaccines anywhere in the world.

Speaking to CNBC TV-18, Poonwalla further stated that SII would never take advantage of the pandemic, saying 'we are losing Rs 150 per dose'. SII has to pay 50 percent royalty to Astra Zeneca, he further said.

Earlier on April 21, SII released its Covishield vaccine pricing - Rs 400 for state governments and Rs 600 for private hospitals per dose.

Poonawalla said that Rs 400 per dose was also the new procurement price for the Centre after the opening up of the vaccination policy.

The CEO also mentioned that states can purchase from  SII at Rs 400 per dose, but they don't have to as the Centre is still providing them vaccine for free.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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Everyone above 18 years of age will be eligible to get vaccinated against COVID-19 from May 1, the Centre had announced on April 19 as it liberalised the vaccination drive to allow states, private hospitals and industrial establishments to procure the doses directly from manufacturers.

The Union government had said that manufacturers would have to “transparently” make an advance declaration of the price at which vaccines would be available to state governments and in the open market before May 1.

Poonawalla further noted that export prices of vaccines will also increase, now that the vaccine has been certified and has proven efficacy. He also said that any investigation into the side effects of the vaccine can happen as well.

The supply for a contract of 110 million doses to the central government has already started, he said, adding that 9-10 crore doses of the vaccine were supplied to the central government at earlier rates. However, now any negotiation will happen at the new rates.

Talking about supply to private hospitals, Poonwalla said the company will start signing contracts within a couple of weeks. He hopes to fulfill the contract by the third or fourth week of May.  He also clarified that Covishield's production will not be affected by the shortage of raw materials from the US. The CEO in an earlier tweet had urged the US government to lift their embargo on raw materials, so that vaccine production can be ramped up.

The launch of Covovax, another vaccine currently under production in SII, could also be advanced by two months if the quality is met. Covovax was initially supposed to be out by September of this year. He also mentioned that they have started stockpiling Covovax.

The vaccine shortage that India is currently facing will also end in the next 2-3 months, claimed Poonawalla, as SII ramps up their capacity by 20 percent per month.  They are expected to produce 100 million doses a month by July.

Poonawalla has also stated that vaccine distribution to India is being prioritised. All facilities have been redirected to manufacture the vaccine and all other non-vaccine products have been sacrificed. The CEO also remarked that opening up pricing controls for vaccines is the need of the hour, as most foreign manufacturers demand pricing freedom to come to India.
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