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India Wants Serum Institute to Lower Price of AstraZeneca Injection, Sources Say | India News


NEW DELHI: The Indian government has been negotiating with the Serum Institute of India to reduce the price of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine, people close to the matter said, delaying the launch of the country’s immunization program.
India’s drug regulator approved the emergency use of the vaccine developed by Oxford University, as well as another developed by Indian firm Bharat Biotech, but the government has not placed firm orders with either firm.
Senior officials have been discussing the terms of the deal with the Serum Institute for weeks, hoping to cut prices below $ 3 per injection, one of the sources with direct knowledge told Reuters.
Serum CEO Adar Poonawalla had told CNBC-TV18 in November that the vaccine would be priced at around Rs 1,000 ($ 13.55) per dose for the private market in India and cost the government around 250. Indian rupees ($ 3.40) per dose.
Some officials are looking at the possibility of a further drop in prices, the source said. Vaccinating a country of more than 1.3 billion people comes at great cost and every rupee saved would help, the source said.
“Any government would do this, we have to keep costs down,” the source said.
“Price is a problem with Serum. The government must control it,” said another official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
India’s federal Health Ministry and the Serum Institute did not respond to requests for comment.
On Saturday, the government announced that the immunization program will begin on January 16. The plan is to cover 300 million people in the first part of the program, starting with health workers, front-line personnel like the police, and then people over 50 and those with comorbidities.
That will require 600 million doses and Serum, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, has stockpiled 50 million doses for immediate distribution.
Nothing is yet known about the negotiations with Bharat Biotech, whose vaccine developed in collaboration with the Indian Council for Medical Research received an emergency license, although it has not completed efficacy trials.
With the Serum Institute, the government is also trying to get closer to the price it wants before authorizing any shipments for exports or private sales, authorities said.
“More than 150 countries want this vaccine. But nothing will move until the government reaches an agreement on prices,” the official said.
India has said there are no export restrictions, but has yet to formally announce export authorization despite pressure from Brazil which has requested 2 million doses of the Indian-made AstraZeneca vaccine.
The injection of AstraZeneca, locally branded Covishield in India, is expected to cover 90% of the needs of India’s mass immunization program, the official said.
The government aims to secure 600 million doses for the country’s vaccination campaign aimed at inoculating 300 million citizens over the next six to eight months.

Times of India