Serum Institute needs Rs 3,000 cr to ramp up production of Covishield, says CEO Adar Poonawalla

The Serum Institute -- the manufacturers of Covishield -- needs Rs 3,000 crore to ramp up production, CEO Adar Poonawalla told NDTV on Tuesday.

He gave the projection even as the nation is grappling with a second wave of Covid and the Centre is coming under great pressure to make more and more doses of vaccine available.

Poonawalla, who earlier said the SII had agreed to supply the first 100 million doses at heavily subsidised rates, said the company had to make bigger profits than it was doing now, so it could "re-invest in the production line and facilities" and be able to make more doses quickly.

"We are supplying the vaccine in the Indian market at around ₹150-160. The average price of the vaccine is approximately $20 (Rs 1500) ... because of the Modi government's request, we are providing vaccines at subsidised rates... It is not that we are not making profits... but we are not making a super profit, which is key to re-investing," Poonawalla told NDTV.

"This (the amount needed) would be roughly ₹3,000 crores. The process takes 85 days, so it would be just under three months before we scale up operations," he said, adding that he had written to the centre on this subject, failing which SII would approach the banks for a loan.

Asked how stressed for capacity the SII is now, he said: "Very... to put it frankly", and January's fire - in which five people died - damaged equipment and led to delayed deliveries.

"We are supplying two million doses per day... between 60 and 65 million per month. And have given, so far, over 100 million doses to the government," he said, explaining that he eventually hoped to produce around 110 million doses of Covishield, of which the SII has no stockpiles, per month.

Poonawalla also said that it was difficult to explain to foreign governments - with many of whom the SII has contracts - that India had first claim to the vaccines.

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