MUMBAI: Not only healthcare workers and the vulnerable 'prioritised' population, but private individuals too have reasons to rejoice with the government approving Pune-based Serum Institute of India's Covid-19 vaccine. Once it rolls out the 50-60 million doses of Covishield that forms the first tranche of the government's order, it will give doses to private individuals, private hospitals and companies as early as March, Serum Institute's CEO Adar Poonawalla said on Sunday.
This comes in the wake of the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) approving Serum's vaccine for "restricted use in an emergency situation, subject to conditions". The firm will initially supply exclusively to the government, and not sell to the private market. It has also not been allowed to export the vaccine. In a bid to endorse the vaccine and build trust, Poonawalla said he plans to take the shot himself this week, after the formal approval comes.
Significantly, the 'special' price of around Rs 200 per shot for the government will only be for the first 100 million doses, Poonawalla said. It will be priced around Rs 1,000 per dose in the private market. "We expect to start deliveries in seven to 10 days after the order. The government indicated they would need 50-60 million doses in a month, or 10-15 million doses a week," he added.
The formal letter from the government, including the final order, is still awaited. So, after the government's initial requirements of providing the shot to the "vulnerable and needy" is taken care of, "we will provide it for private use to hospitals and companies", he said. "We will recommend a longer gap (of two and a half months) between the two full doses of the shot as this takes up efficacy to the 90% level" Poonawalla said, adding efficacy improves if you wait for nearly three months. The clinical trials data from India proving this will be made public over the next two months.
"Our package insert also recommends a one to three months gap. The longer you wait, the better efficacy you get. This is as per global studies in over 25,000 people on the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine. This recommendation will come from UK soon, we will submit it to the regulator," he added. The overall vaccine efficacy of Serum's vaccine was 70.42%, the DCGI said in a press release.