50% of our Covid vaccines will be for India, people won't have to buy them, govts will pay: Adar Poonawalla
Serum Institute of India CEO Adar Poonawalla. (Photo: Getty Images)
A day after the Lancet published the first human trial data of the Covid-19 vaccine that is being developed by the Oxford University, Serum Institute of India CEO Adar Poonawalla said 50 per cent of the vaccines that will be manufactured by his firm will be supplied to India and the rest to other countries. Poonawalla said the vaccine will mostly be purchased by governments, and people will receive them free of cost through immunisation programmes.
Serum Institute of India is one of the world's biggest vaccine manufacturers.
Speaking in an exclusive interview to India Today TV, Adar Poonawalla said if the vaccine trials go fine and the results are favourable, Serum Institute of India will be manufacturing this vaccine as a partner with Oxford University. He said the firm is also seeking regulatory clearances to conduct Phase 3 human trials of the Oxford University vaccine in India so that the vaccine can be manufactured at mass scale if the results are favourable.
"We have said that we want to give half of our (vaccine) production to India and the other half to other countries on a pro-rata basis every month. The government has been supportive. We need to understand that this is a global crisis and people across the world need to be protected. It's important that we equally immunise the entire world," Poonawalla said.
He said if the trials and results go as planned, Serum Institute of India would be able to produce a few million doses of the vaccine by November-December, and around 300-400 million doses by the first quarter of 2021 for mass usage.
Asked who would get the vaccine in the first batch, Poonawalla said they have left it to the government to decide on who requires the vaccine the most.
"The ethical way of distributing the vaccine is that the elderly and the immuno compromised (who are most vulnerable) get the vaccine first, along with frontline healthcare workers. The healthy adults can get the vaccine later on," he said, adding that this would be an ethical way of distributing the vaccine.
'Won't have to pay'
Speaking about the price component of this vaccine (if it materialises and hits the market), Adar Poonawalla said it is a bit early to comment on how much each dose of the vaccine will cost.
"Of course it will be given out at a very affordable price. Today, a Covid-19 test incurs Rs 2,500. There are drugs like Remdesiver that are costing tens and thousands of rupees. We are planning to put the price at around Rs 1,000 or less than that per dose. I don't think any individual will have to pay for it because the vaccines will mostly be bought by governments and then distributed free through the immunisation programmes," Poonawalla said.
He said, for African countries, his firm has committed to provide the vaccine at $2-3 per dose.
"It will in line with our philosophy of giving things at a very affordable price. We don't want to make a profit at all in the pandemic state. Once the pandemic is over, we may look at a more commercial price and the vaccine could be available in the private market like other drugs. But during the pandemic period, we have committed not to charge a very high price," Poonawalla said.
"I don't see any citizen having to pay for this vaccine... or at least they should not. It (coronavirus pandemic) is a national security issue and the government must put in its efforts, and they are doing it," he said.