Does GoI have 80,000 crores to buy, distribute Covid-19 vaccine?

Serum Institute of India, CEO Adar Poonawalla has asked this, igniting a debate, but no one seems to know the govt’s plan of action


In his own words, it was meant to be a quick question, however Serum Institute of India (SII) Adar Poonawalla’s has ignited a massive debate over the Covid-19 vaccine which the Union Health Minister had recently said, will be available as early as next year. On Saturday, Poonawala asked a question the Minister should really address soon. 

Poonawala has asked “will the government of India have Rs 80,000 crores available, over the next one year?” That, he explained, is what it will cost the Union Health Ministry  to buy and distribute the vaccine to everyone in India. 


The Serum Institute of India (SII) is collaborating with the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca to manufacture and distribute the Covid-19 vaccine in India. Perhaps after a deluge of replies, divided between the entitled who said they did not need a ‘free’ dose of the vaccine and could afford to pay for it, to those who questioned the government’s plan of action for mass vaccinations, Poonawala elaborated his intentions of asking the question. Or perhaps it was advice from his communications team that led him to further state that, “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.” 

According to a report by India Today, the clinical trials for Covishield, the vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca in collaboration with SII have begun in Mumbai’s KEM and Nair hospitals. The report added that trials are likely to begin at a state-run hospital in Pune soon. The Drugs Controller General of India (DGCI) had revoked its order suspending any new recruitment for phase-II and phase-III of the clinical trials of Covishield, earlier this month as was reported widely. 

The Serum Institute of India has been issued a notice after vaccine trials were paused. According to multiple news reports, the Drugs Regulator General of India questioned why the Serum Institute of India “even progressed with the trials and why it has not sent a detailed report about the patient in the United States.”

“As I’d mentioned earlier, we should not jump to conclusions until the trials are fully concluded. The recent chain of events are a clear example why we should not bias the process and should respect the process till the end. Good news, @UniofOxford,” Adar Poonawalla had tweeted after the revocation of DGCI’s order, stated news reports. According to India Today, after examination, the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca received a go-ahead from authorities in the UK to resume clinical trials for Covishield. The SII has, in fact, also partnered with Novavax for the manufacturing of its Covid-19 vaccine candidate, NVXCoV2373, it added.

However, according to a Hindustan Times report, Adar Poonawalla had already warned that there won’t be enough vaccines against the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) for everyone in the world till the end of 2024. 

The SSI, is the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, and Poonawalla its CEO has estimated that the world will need around 15 billion doses of the Covid-19 shot if it is a two-dose vaccine. “It’s going to take four to five years until everyone gets the vaccine on this planet,” Poonawalla was quoted by the Financial Times. The Pune-based pharma firm has committed to producing one billion doses, of which it has pledged half to India.

Meanwhile, the Coronavirus cases in India have gone well past the 59 lakh-mark with the latest spike of over 85,362 new coronavirus cases on Friday. On Saturday, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) said, “7,02,69,975 samples have been tested up to September 25 (Friday) for Covid-19. Of these, 13,41,535 samples were tested on Friday.” According to news reports India is now second in the world with the most number of coronavirus cases after the United States, which has over 70 lakh confirmed cases so far.

Among the states, Maharashtra continues to top this list. It has alone contributed more than 17,000 new cases followed by Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh with more than 8,000 and 7,000 cases respectively.

Meanwhile, Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan led health ministry continues to talk about the total number of tests having crossed 7 crore, and added that 10 States/UTs account for 75% of the new confirmed cases. Around 1,089 deaths have been registered in the past 24 hours. And according to the health ministry 10 States/UTs account for 83% of the deaths in the last 24 hours due to Covid-19. Maharashtra reported 416 deaths followed by Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh with 86 and 84 deaths, respectively.


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