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COVID-19 vaccine | Serum Institute's Covishield priced at Rs 400 per dose for states; Rs 600/dose for private hospitals

Serum Institute of India said 50 percent of its capacities will serve the Centre's COVID-19 vaccination programme, and the remaining 50 percent will be for state governments and private hospitals.

April 21, 2021 / 10:31 PM IST

Serum Institute of India (SII) said it will charge state governments Rs 400 and private hospitals Rs 600 per dose of its Covishield COVID-19 vaccine, finally answering the question of how the company expects to price the product it manufactures and accelerate India's vaccination drive.

The company said 50 percent of its capacities will serve the government of India's vaccination programme, and the remaining 50 percent capacity will be for state governments and private hospitals. “For the next two months, we will address the limited capacity by scaling up the vaccine production,” it said in a statement.

Serum Institute, the world's largest vaccine manufacturer, said doses will be made available in retail and for free trade after four-five months.

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Citing “complexity and urgency of the situation” and challenges in supplying doses independently to corporate entities, the Serum Institute urged corporates and private individuals to access vaccines through the state-facilitated machinery and private health systems.

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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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Subsequently, Serum Institute CEO Adar Poonawalla told CNBC-TV18 that Rs 400 per dose was also the new procurement price for the Centre after opening up of the vaccination policy.

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.

The Serum Institute produces Covishield, the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca. Covishield is among the three vaccines authorised for emergency use in India. Bharat Biotech, which produces Covaxin, has not announced its pricing for state governments and the open market yet.

COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker: All you need to know about manufacturing and pricing

Covishield needs to be administered in a two-dose regimen. The government had earlier revised the gap between the two doses Covishield to six-eight weeks.

More than 13 crore vaccine doses have been administered in India so far. However, several states have complained of a supply shortage. Inoculating a large section of the population is being seen as an effective way of curbing the spread of the novel coronavirus which causes the infectious disease.

The second wave of coronavirus has battered India’s creaking healthcare system hard as scores of people struggle to secure hospital beds, oxygen cylinders and medicines such as Remdesivir and Tocilizumab.

Hours before manufacturers met Prime Minister Narendra Modi virtually on April 20, Poonawalla thanked the prime minister and Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman for 'decisive policy changes and swift financial aid' that he said will help vaccine production and distribution in India. This came a day after the Centre approved an advance of around Rs 3,000 crore to the Serum Institute and around Rs 1,500 crore to Bharat Biotech. Poonawalla had earlier stressed that his company would require the amount to ramp up production capacity.

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