Mumbai At a time when the debate is underway on the timing of launch of Covid-19 vaccines, Adar Poonawalla, CEO of Serum Institute of India (SII) on Saturday asked whether the Centre has Rs 80,000 crore to buy and distribute it. In a tweet Poonawalla said: “Quick question, will the government of India have Rs 80,000 crore available, over the next one year? Because that’s what @MoHFW INDIA needs to buy and distribute the vaccine to everyone in India.’’ He further said ‘’I ask this question, because we need to plan and guide, vaccine manufacturers both in India and overseas to service the needs of our country in terms of procurement and distribution.’’
Poonawalla’s tweets are important as clinical trials of Covishield, the vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca in collaboration with SII have begun at KEM and Nair hospitals. They are likely to commence in the state-run hospital in Pune in the near future.
SII has joined hands with five global pharma companies including AstraZeneca to produce one billion doses of its vaccine, half of which it has pledged to India. It has also partnered with Russia’s Gamaleya Research Institute to manufacture the Sputnik V vaccine. SII presently produces 1.5 billion doses of polio, measles and influenza vaccines for 170 countries.
Other vaccine candidates in addition to Covishield are also being tested across India. Bharat Biotech is in Phase 2 trials with COVAXIN and Zydus Cadila is waiting to receive approvals for Phase 3 clinical trials for its vaccine.
On September 15, Poonawalla had estimated that the world will need 15 billion doses of vaccine if it is taken in two steps. ‘’It’s going to take four to five years until everyone gets the vaccine on this planet," he had said.