Will India govt have Rs 80,000 cr to vaccinate citizens? asks Serum's Poonawalla

Pune-based firm is among the frontrunners in the world for developing a COVID vaccine

64-Adar-C-Poonawalla Adar C. Poonawalla

Rs 80,000 crore—that's the estimated cost, according to Adar Poonawalla, the chief executive of vaccine manufacturer Serum Institute of India (SII), to vaccinate all Indians against the COVID pandemic. In a tweet on Saturday, Poonawalla asked if the government has enough resources to fund the huge vaccination drive to eradicate the pandemic. 

"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. @PMOIndia," Poonawalla tweeted tagging the Twitter handles of the health ministry as well as the Prime Minister's Office. 

"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," he further tweeted. 

This additional expenditure is likely to put further burden on the cash-strapped Indian government, whose revenue streams have dried up, courtesy, the COVID-induced lockdowns. 

SII has partnered with five international pharmaceutical firms, including AstraZeneca and Novavax, to develop a Covid-19 vaccine and committed to producing one billion doses, of which it has pledged half to India.

The Pune-based pharma firm is among the frontrunners in the world in the field of developing a vaccine against the coronavirus pandemic. The Phase II human clinical trial of the vaccine candidate had begun at a medical college and hospital in Pune in August.

Earlier, speaking to the Financial Times, Poonawalla warned there won’t be enough vaccines against the coronavirus disease for everyone in the world till the end of 2024. He had estimated that the world will need around 15 billion doses of the Covid-19 shot if it is a two-dose vaccine.

The trials faced an unprecedented obstacle as the Drugs Controller General of India directed Serum Institute of India to suspend any new recruitment in the phase two and three clinical trial of the Oxford COVID-19 vaccine candidate till further orders in the backdrop of pharma giant AstraZeneca pausing the clinical trials in other countries because of "an unexplained illness" in a participant in the study. However, soon the world's largest vaccine manufacturer was given the green light to resume trials as AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford said clinical trials for their coronavirus vaccine have resumed in the UK after the Medicines Health Regulatory Authority's (MHRA) confirmed that the trials were safe.


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