With all eyes on the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine candidate, its Pune-based manufacturing partner Serum Institute plans to make one billion doses of the jab over the next year for India and other low- and middle-income countries. Serum CEO Adar Poonawalla tells Sushmi Dey he wants to keep the price of the vaccine below Rs 1,000. Excerpts:
Everyone is closely watching the development of Covid-19 vaccines. How promising are the results of clinical trials with the Oxford candidate and what are the plans at Serum Institute?
With the recent Phase 1 & 2 trials data, I am hopeful that the AstraZeneca Oxford vaccine candidate will be immunogenic and effective. If the Phase 3 trials are successful, we are certain that ‘Covishield’ will be one of the first vaccines to be introduced in the market. We seek to apply for licensure trials in a week’s time to DCGI. With the government fast-tracking everything, we are hoping to get approvals soon, post that we will begin Phase 3 human trials in India with 4,000-5,000 people.
What is the timeline that you are looking at?
We will start producing a few million doses at personal risk. Based on the success of the trials, we are expecting it to be available by the end of this year. I believe by the first quarter of next year, it will start reaching the masses.
What are your plans in terms of manufacture and distribution of Covid-19 vaccine once it is ready? Which are the countries where you plan to supply?
We are expecting around 300-400 million doses by the end of this year. As per our deal with AstraZeneca, we will be making one billion doses over the next one year for India and other low- and middleincome countries (GAVI countries). The vaccine will be procured and distributed by the respective governments and organisations like GAVI.
Will the dosage or composition be altered for Indian recipients?
Most vaccines are administered in 2-3 doses, in order to prime with the first dose and then boost immunity with the second. Similarly, I think the vaccines for Covid-19 will be administered in two doses.
Have you worked out the price of the vaccine?
It is too early to comment on the vaccine’s price. However, we will try to keep it under Rs 1,000. Having said that, our aim is to provide an efficacious and affordable vaccine.
What are your views on prioritising vaccine distribution? Who should get it first?
In the initial phase, it will be a government administered vaccine programme. I feel the vaccine should be given to vulnerable groups to start with; such as healthcare workers, frontline staff, children and elderly people with weak immune systems. Healthy young adults can get it later.


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