India has administered around 8.3 crore vaccine doses since the drive began on January 16, the Health Ministry said at a briefing on Tuesday evening
The Serum Institute – makers of the Covishield vaccine – needs around Rs 3,000 crore to scale up production, CEO Adar Poonawalla told NDTV Tuesday, as a second Covid wave sweeps through India and the centre faces urgent calls to make more and more doses of the vaccine available.
Mr Poonawalla, who earlier said the SII had agreed to supply the first 10 crore doses at heavily subsidised rates, said the company had to make bigger profits than it was now, so it could “re-invest in the production line and facilities” and be able to make more doses quickly.
“We are supplying the vaccine in the Indian market at approximately Rs 150-160. The average price of the vaccine is approximately $20 (Rs 1,500)… because of the Modi government’s request, we are providing vaccines at subsidised rates… It is not that we are not making profits… but we are not making a super profit, which is key to re-investing,” Mr Poonawalla told NDTV.
“This (the amount needed) would be roughly Rs 3,000 crores. The process takes 85 days, so it would be just under three months before we scale up operations,” he added.
Mr Poonawalla also admitted that the SII’s production facilities were “very stressed, quite frankly”.
The fire that broke out at the SII’s Pune facility in January didn’t help matters; five people died and some of the equipment was damaged, forcing a shift in vaccine delivery deadlines.
“We are supplying two million doses per day. So… and it varies month to month, but we are between 60 and 65 million doses per month as a minimum. And we have given, so far, over 100 million doses to India, and exported over 60 million,” he said.
India has administered around 8.3 crore vaccine doses since the drive began on January 16.
The centre has said the pace of the rollout is second only to the United States – 79.11 million been vaccinated in 79 days (as on April 4) compared to 165.05 million in 112 days by the US.
However, the alarming rate at which new cases are being reported every day means the vaccination effort has to significantly faster to stop the virus from spreading.
The Chief Ministers of Delhi, Maharashtra and Punjab, as well as the Indian Medical Association, have all asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to allow more people to be vaccinated.
At present, only those over 45, and healthcare and frontline workers, are eligible to get the shot.
Shortly after Mr Poonawalla spoke to NDTV the centre shot down that call, saying the focus had to be on vaccinating those who needed it and not on those who wanted the shot.
“We have to focus on Covid-appropriate behaviour and containment. When the time comes to open it to all, then we will,” Dr VK Paul, a member of government think tank NITI Aayog, said.