Serum Institute of India (SII) chief executive Adar Poonawalla on Tuesday said there are plans to provide 50 to 60 million vials to the government either by January or February, even as 11 million doses of Covishield vaccine are currently being rolled out.
Speaking to the select media persons at the SII facility, Poonawalla said the real challenge lies in taking the vaccine to the "common man, to the vulnerable groups of people and to healthcare workers".
"Our trucks left the SII facility early morning and now the vaccine is being distributed in the entire country. This is a proud and historic moment as scientists, experts and all other stake-holders took great efforts while making this vaccine in less than a year," he said. Poonawalla said the SII has offered the vaccine to the Government of India (GoI) at a special price of Rs 200.
He also said that once the SII get the requisite permission, the vaccine will be made available in the private market at the cost Rs 1,000.
"We have given priority to India. We will provide as many doses as the nation demands. Rest of the vaccine, we will export. We are getting request from Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Africa, and there are COVAX partners also," said Poonawalla. He also added that the SII's production capacity is bigger than the world and that is why the company is under the maximum pressure to manufacture.
"Smaller companies are taking time to bring out the vaccines. Their supply will be scaled up in Q2 and Q3. Till that time, the world will be dependent on us and we will make everyone happy by distributing the vaccine," he said. Poonawalla further said the SII will soon start exporting the vaccine to other countries.
Responding to a query on the safety of the vaccine, he said all COVID-19 vaccines have passed all the safety parameters. "DCGI (Drugs Controller General of India) will not provide the license to a vaccine unless its efficacy and safety are not proved. All Indian vaccines are safe, effective, and it is advisable that people should take them.
"People have the right to question but I would ask people to study it, see the science behind it and it is always advisable that the vaccines should be taken to fight the disease," he said. Poonawalla said when the manufacturing of Covishiled started in March, 2020, no one predicted that the SII would come out with the vaccine in less than a year.
"Generally, it takes 3 to 4 years to develop a vaccine," he added. "A lot of countries are writing to the PMO and India to supply the vaccine from SII. We are trying to keep everyone happy but we have to take care of our people and population," he added.
(With inputs from PTI)