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First Covishield batch to be shipped tonight or tomorrow as India gears up for vaccine drive

Serum Institute of India will be selling each dose of Covishield at Rs 200 under the purchase agreement signed with Modi govt Monday for nearly one crore doses.

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New Delhi: To kickstart the country’s inoculation drive, the first tranche of Covid-19 vaccines is likely to be shipped out either Monday night or early morning Tuesday.  

The Narendra Modi government Monday signed purchase agreements with Pune-based vaccine manufacturer, Serum Institute of India, to buy Covishield — over a week after approving the vaccine. 

Covishield is a vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca. It was manufactured by SII in India.

“SII is planning to ship the first lot of vaccine consignment late night today or early morning tomorrow,” said an official at SII. 

“The company will be selling each dose of vaccine at Rs 200 under the purchase agreement signed, which is for approximately one crore doses,” the official said.

ThePrint reached SII official spokesperson via text message and email for a comment, but there was no response till the publication of this report.

The central government aims to secure 60 crore doses for the country’s immunisation drive to cover 30 crore people — including healthcare workers, frontline workers and people above the age of 50 with co-morbidities —  in the next six to eight months.

The government plans to kickstart the immunisation programme from 16 January.

An official in the ministry of health said, “We will be procuring the doses through pharma PSU HLL Lifecare, who also procured hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) for government use. It has been discussed that the budget will come from PM-CARES funds.”

He said the government is still discussing the purchase agreement with Bharat Biotech. “The discussions are on the verge of closure,” the official added.

Govt to purchase Covishield at previously quoted price  

The delay in signing of the formal agreement had led to the speculation that the central government is trying to pressurise SII to lower the “orally decided” price. 

Adar Poonawalla, CEO of SII, had earlier told ThePrint that “the Government of India will receive it (vaccine) 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,” he had said. 

SII is currently producing 6 to 7 crore doses per month, which will increase further up to 10 crore doses per month by March 2021. 

Also read: Lack of data, doubts over trials and vaccine quality – India’s dangerous recovery cocktail


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