As India gets on with the mass vaccination exercise of an unprecedented scale against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), Serum Institute chief Adar Poonawalla on Tuesday (January 12) said that it is a 'historic moment' for the biotechnology and pharmaceuticals company that the vaccines are being dispatched from its factory.
"This is a historical moment that the vaccine is being dispatched from our factory. Our main challenge is to bring it to everyone in the country. It is our challenge for 2021, let's see how it happens," said Adar Poonawalla.
Notably, the Pune-based Serum Institute of India is the world's largest vaccine manufacturer. The first consignment of the 'Covishield' COVID-19 vaccine arrived at the Indira Gandhi International Airport of the national capital as the country's civil aviation sector has swung into action for providing an expeditious roll-out of India's mega anti-Covid vaccination drive.
Poonawalla, Chairman, President and CEO of the institute, today said that the company is aiming to serve the country first without focusing on profits. The first 100 million doses have been provided to the central government at a "special price" of Rs 200, just a bit above the cost price, so that the poor, vulenerable section of the population and and frontline/healthcare workers can be inoculated at once, Poonwalla said.
After that, the Serum Institute will be selling the vaccine at Rs 1,000 in private markets, he said.
"We've given a special price of Rs 200 for the first 100 milion doses only to the Government of India on their request, that we want to support the common man, vulnerable, poor, healthcare workers. After that, we'll be selling it at Rs 1,000 in private markets," Adar Poonawalla said.
The Serum Institute chief added, "To the Government of India, we'll still maintain a very reasonable price but it will be a little bit more than Rs 200, which is our cost price. So we decided not to make any profit, we wanted to support the nation and the Government of India for the first 100 million doses."
He also said that there has also been a demand from abroad to export the vaccines to other countries like those in Africa and South America. However, India's population will need to be served first, following which everyone else's needs will be taken care of, Poonawalla said.
"A lot of countries have been writing to India and the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) for vaccines to be supplied from Serum Institute to their countries. We're trying to keep everyone happy. We have to take care of our population and nation as well," he said.
The Serum Institute chief also said that the company plans to make 70-80 million doses per month.
"Planning is underway to see how many will be given to India and foreign countries. Health Ministry has made logistics plans. We also have partnerships with private players for trucks, vans, and cold storage," Poonawalla said.
Notably, the first consignment of 'Covishield' vaccine consisting of 34 boxes and weighing 1,088 kg was carried today from Pune to Delhi on SpiceJet flight 8937.
During the day, nine flights operated by various domestic airlines are slated to ferry 56.5 lakh doses from Pune to Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Guwahati, Shillong, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Vijayawada, Bhubaneswar, Patna, Bengaluru, Lucknow and Chandigarh, informed Union Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri.