COVID-19 vaccine: Serum gets order for 11 million out of 600 million doses needed

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These and several other questions continue to emerge as long as there is no clarity from the government on its plans on procurement and distribution.These and several other questions continue to emerge as long as there is no clarity from the government on its plans on procurement and distribution.Five days before the actual rollout of the vaccination programme to cover healthcare professionals, frontline workers and the vulnerable elderly, order for the procurement of the vaccine has finally been placed with Serum Institute of India. The company finally received the order on Monday, 11 January. Serum is the first company from India to get the emergency use authorization approval on 3 January by the Indian regulator. The other company that has been given the emergency use authorization is Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech. However, Financial Express Online learns reliably is that the order with Serum has been placed for only 11 million doses, which given that two doses are needed per person is only covering 55 lakh people as against 600 million doses needed for the 30 crore people. The order has apparently been placed by HLL Lifecare, a government of India enterprise from Kerala.

This taken at the Rs 200 per dose price quoted by Serum Insitute means an order worth Rs 220 crore, which apparently is an amount to be spent under the PM Cares Fund.

This raises new questions, will this free Serum to start exporting, which apparently will be a much more lucrative market for the company. It has already entered into an arrangement to supply in all some 100 million doses to GAVI- the global vaccine alliance vaccine at the rate of $3 per dose.

The other two questions that emerge are from where is the government planning to procure the other 589 million doses? Will they all be from Bharat Biotech? Can Bharat Biotech supply as many? And whether the vaccination rollout will be in a trial mode for many? Or is it that the order placed with Serum is first among the orders to be placed with the company and more are to follow. There is so far no information from Bharat Biotech on this though in the press conference held recently after the company was given the emergency use authorization, Bharat Biotech founder Dr Krishna Ella confined himself to saying the government was talking to them.

These and several other questions continue to emerge as long as there is no clarity from the government on its plans on procurement and distribution. The supplier of the vaccine will have to dispatch the vaccines to the designated locations and incur all the costs involved, which apparently is included in the price paid for the vaccine procurement.

As experts in the sector have often been saying on the vaccine rollout, a lot of confusion around the actual delivery of the vaccine, its procurement and the concerns of the healthcare professionals on the vaccine in question will all be addressed if there is little more transparency.

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