Vaccine Dispatch to Begin Today as SII Gets 'Covishield' Purchase Order, Each Jab to Cost Rs 220

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The Serum Institute on India on Monday said it has received the purchase order from the Centre for the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine. Stocks of Covishield are likely to start moving out of the Pune firm early on Tuesday. Sources told News18 that each dose will cost Rs 220 inclusive of taxes and 14 per cent GST. They said that vaccine transportation will begin shortly.

Sources, however, added that there is no clarity on the second dose yet. Health ministry is asking both the companies to give a certain quantity for free of cost, a source said.

"We have received the (purchase) order from the Government of India on Monday afternoon," a senior SII official was quoted as saying by PTI.

The government has already announced that the process of administering the vaccine will start on on January 16. The SII vaccine developed by Oxford-AstraZeneca was cleared for emergency use along with Bharat Biotech's indigenous "Covaxin" earlier this month.

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A source closely involved in logistical arrangements said the movement of vaccine doses is likely to start from early Tuesday morning through road and air routes amid elaborate police security, PTI stated.

"Some consignments will go by roadways and some will go by air," said the source. Trucks belonging to Kool-ex Cold Chain Ltd, which will be ferrying vaccine stocks, reached Serum Institute of India's (SII) Manjari facility on Monday evening, where loading of doses will take place, he said.

Covishield is co-developed by the University of Oxford and British-Swedish company AstraZeneca in collaboration with the Pune-based SII. Among the first batch, one consignment is scheduled to be shipped by an Air India cargo flight to Ahmedabad.

"In the consignment there are 23 pieces weighing 736 kg which will be sent by air cargo," said a source from the airline. On Monday, Gujarat deputy chief minister Nitin Patel tweeted that his state will receive the first consignment of coronavirus vaccine on Tuesday at 10.45 am at the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Airport in Ahmedabad.

Earlier in the day, the Union government placed a purchase order with Serum Institute of India (SII) for 11 million doses of Covishield, each costing Rs 210, including GST, official sources said in New Delhi. Covishield vaccine doses would be initially shipped to 60 consignee points from where those would be distributed to various vaccination centres across India, the sources said.

The Maharashtra government has already decided to provide police security to trucks carrying vaccine doses up to airports and the state's borders. "Kool-ex Cold Chain is the lead vendor for the movement of the vaccine from the SII factory to over 50 primary government locations (depots) in the first leg," the company's co-founder, Rahul Agarwal, had said on Sunday.

He had said about 300 GPS-fitted trucks will be used for shipping consignments and if needed 500 more will be roped in for the task. The country will launch its COVID-19 vaccination drive from January 16 in what Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called the world's largest inoculation programme with priority to be given to nearly three crore healthcare and frontline workers.

India had recently approved two vaccines, SII's Covishield and Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech's Covaxin, for restricted emergency use.