'Centre may buy 300-400 mn Covishield doses by July'

Centre may purchase 300 to 400 million Covishield vaccine doses by July 2021: SII CEO Adar Poonawalla

“The Prime Minister has very good knowledge on vaccines and vaccine production…there was very little to be explained to him,” Poonawalla said

Pune-based Serum Institute of India Chief Executive Officer Adar Poonawalla. Credit: Twitter/@adarpoonawalla

The Centre has given indications that it would need 300-400 million Covishield doses from the Pune-based Serum Institute of India by July 2021, as part of the combat strategy against the sweeping Covid-19 viral pandemic, CEO Adar Poonawalla said.

As of now, the SII is producing 50 to 60 million doses and they would scale it up to 100 million doses a month by January 2021.

Follow all Coronavirus vaccine news updates here

“As of now, we don't have anything in writing with the Government of  India on how many doses they will purchase but the indication is that the need would be around 300-400 million doses by July 2021,” SII Chief Executive Officer Adar Poonawalla said during an online press conference.

The statement came minutes after Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the SII facility of the world’s largest vaccine maker in Hadapsar in Pune during his day-long pan-India review of the vaccine development programme which also involved meetings at Zydus Biotech Park in Ahmedabad and Bharat Biotech Facility in Hyderabad.

During his visit, the production and implementation plan was discussed with the Prime Minister, Poonawalla said.

“The Prime Minister has very good knowledge on vaccines and vaccine production…there was very little to be explained to him,” he said.

At SII, the Prime Minister was received by founder-Chairman Cyrus Poonawalla, Adar and his wife Natasha, who is the Exective Director of SII and  Chairperson of the Villoo Poonawalla Foundation.

Adar said that the priority for SII is India. “Covishield vaccine will be distributed initially in India, then we will look at the COVAX countries which are mainly in Africa. The UK and European markets are being taken care of by AstraZeneca and Oxford. Our priority is India and COVAX countries,” he said.

On the issue of ramping up vaccine production, he said: “We have built the largest pandemic level facility in Pune and our new campus in Mandri. That was also showcased to the Prime Minister with a tour around the facility and a lot of detailed discussions of the plans ahead.”

Adar noted that at the moment the trails are enough for the efficacy.

“There was a bit of confusion in the communication which will be explained. We are looking to conduct trials for the under-18 age group after a few months,” he said.