Does govt have ₹80,000 crore for COVID-19 vaccines, asks Serum CEO

Adar Poonawalla’s Serum Institute of India has collaborated with AstraZeneca and Oxford University to produce vaccines.

Pfizer vaccine needs to be stored at minus 70 degrees Celsius as it uses synthetic messenger RNA to trigger an immune response against the virus | Representational image: iStock

Serum Institute of India CEO Adar Poonawalla on Saturday (September 26) bluntly asked the Union government if it has ₹80,000 crore to spend over the next one year on purchase and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.

“Quick question; will the government of India have 80,000 crores available, over the next one year? Because that’s what @MoHFW_INDIA needs, to buy and distribute the vaccine to everyone in India. This is the next concerning challenge we need to tackle,” Poonawalla tweeted, tagging the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) as well.

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In the next tweet, Poonawalla clarified the reason for asking the question. “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.”

The Pune-based Serum Institute of India is the world’s largest vaccine maker by number of doses produced. The company name has been in the headlines for its potential to produce vaccines at a mass level, for which it has tied up with AstraZeneca and Oxford University. Besides, Serum is also developing its own vaccine.

The company is also conducting clinical trials in India for AstraZeneca. It got a green signal from the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) to resume trials on September 16, after a week’s halt following serious side effect in a trial participant in the UK.

Also read: SII says it is ready to restart COVID vaccine trials if DCGI gives nod

The Serum Institute had entered into a manufacturing partnership with AstraZeneca to produce and supply 1 billion doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. In August, it had signed a deal with US drug developer Novavax to produce a minimum of one billion doses of its vaccine candidate, when approved, for low- and middle-income countries and India. The deal was recently doubled to two billion doses annually.

Health minister Harsh Vardhan recently said at the monsoon session of parliament that nearly 30 COVID vaccine candidates are in pre-clinical and clinical stages in India.

India’s COVID-19 outbreak is the fastest growing in the world, with the tally going past 59 lakh on Saturday and the death toll mounting to 93,379.

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