04 Aug 2020: COVAXIN will cost less than water bottle: Bharat Biotech MD
Ever since companies started developing vaccines for COVID-19, one big question has been on everyone's mind: how much the final, approved shot would cost to the public?
Comment: There has been progress in vaccine development
Speaking at a recent conference on COVID-19, Dr. Ella, the MD of Bharat Biotech, said that they have made progress with COVAXIN and remain focused on bringing the right shot at the earliest to contain the ongoing pandemic.
He also clarified that the final quality of the vaccine, once approved and ready for distribution, will be uniform for the whole world.
Pricing: "Water bottle 5 times more costly than our vaccine"
Adding more on COVAXIN, Dr. Ella pointed a bottle in front of him and said, "This water bottle costs five times more than our vaccine".
The bold remark means that COVAXIN will be supplied at a price well below Rs. 100, which will be significant given that most of India's population falls in the low-to-middle income category.
Other efforts: Biological E promised 80 to 100 million doses every month
Along with Dr. Ella from Bharat Biotech, the meeting also had representatives from two other companies involved in COVID-19 vaccine development - Biological E, Indian Immunologicals.
They all expressed intent to coordinate their research producing high-quality, effective vaccines in sufficient quantity, with Biological E promising 80 to 100 million doses every month while Indian Immunologicals offered its factory to further boost production.
Regulation: Dr. Ella also stressed on the need for decentralized regulation
Dr. Ella also pointed out the need for a decentralized regulatory system for vaccines.
He said the government should hold consultations with vaccine developers and provide all statutory permissions through regional offices, not New Delhi.
As other vaccine makers also echoed similar concerns, Telangana's IT minister KT Rama Rao, who was moderating the meeting, said he would take up the matter with the Centre.
Progress: What is the progress of India's COVID-19 vaccines?
Currently, the vaccines from Biological E and Indian Immunologicals are moving through animal trials, while Bharat Biotech's COVAXIN is being tested on human volunteers as part of Phase 1/2 clinical trials, at 12 Indian sites.
Notably, a vaccine from Zydus Cadila Healthcare is also being studied on humans; it is the second COVID-19 vaccine from India that has entered the clinical trial phase.
Availability: When to expect a vaccine?
A vaccine for COVID-19 should be available by next year. But, this will probably be the internationally leading shot developed by Oxford University and being sourced by Serum Institute of India.
After that, homegrown candidates from Bharat Biotech and Cadila might follow up (if successful in trials), providing a more affordable way to develop the antibodies required to fight off the novel coronavirus.