Centre signs deal with Serum Institute for 11 million COVID-19 vaccine doses: Sources

Talks on with Bharat Biotech; no official statement from government or manufacturers yet

By DTE Staff
Published: Monday 11 January 2021

The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) signed a deal with Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII) January 11, 2021 for 11 million doses of its novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine, sources told Down To Earth (DTE).

The cost per dose will be Rs 200-220 for the Government of India, the sources added. News agency Press Trust of India quoted sources as saying the cost would be Rs 210 while news agency Asian News International said it would be Rs 200. Two doses of the SII vaccine — known as ‘Covishield’ — have to be administered for complete immunisation four-six weeks apart. 

DTE reached out to SII and the MoHFW for official statements but both refused to comment.

The vaccines would be transported from Pune, where SII’s manufacturing unit and inventory are located, to various parts of the country on the night of January 11. Each vial is supposed to contain 10 doses.

It is not immediately clear if the Union government has entered into a purchase agreement with Bharat Biotech International Ltd for Covaxin shots as the talks between both parties are still going on. 

India is going to start the vaccination programme from January 16. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his interaction with chief ministers January 11, said the cost of vaccinating all 30 million healthcare and frontline workers will be borne by the Centre. 

The vaccines would be administered free of cost to them and the states will not have to spend anything for purchasing vaccines for these 30 million people. 

The 30 million workers would be part of the first phase of COVID-19 vaccination, that is expected to cover 300 million people overall. They would also include people aged above 50 years and below them who have comorbidities. It is not clear whether those other than the workers would have to pay for the vaccine. 

The central government has four big facilities to store vaccines at required temperatures. These stores are located at Karnal, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata, MoHFW Secretary Rajesh Bhushan had said January 5. The vaccines may reach here via air transport if needed. 

From these stores, the vaccines would be transported to 38 stores that are located in various states. These stores can also store vaccines in bulk. The responsibility of transporting the vaccines till these points will lie with the Centre. 

After this stage, the transportation of vaccines in insulated trucks to district hospitals, primary health centres, community health centres and sub-centres will lie with the state government. The transportation to small health centres can also be done in ice-lined boxes. 

The temperature of all storage facilities right from top down to the level of sub-centres will be monitored digitally through a centralised server on a real-time basis, the secretary had said. 

The decision regarding when and where to conduct vaccination and for how many people (who have been registered) in one go will be taken by the district magistrate concerned. 

The three crore healthcare and frontline workers will not need to register with the government as their bulk data has already been ‘populated’ on a central government app called Co-Win, which the government claims, has been designed especially for the COVID-19 vaccination programme in the country. 

The rest — 470 million — will have to register once the registration begins. 

After the administration of the first dose, the beneficiary would be informed digitally as to when s / he can go and take the second shot. Following this, a QR code would be generated, confirming the person has completed the immunisation process.

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