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Tuesday, Sep 29, 2020 10:15 [IST]

Last Update: Tuesday, Sep 29, 2020 04:44 [IST]

A shot in the arms for all

Adar Poonawalla, chief executive officer of Serum Institute of India, has put out an estimate that the government will need a budget of ?80,000 crore for an all-India vaccination initiative. In a tweet on Saturday, Poonawalla asked if the funds were available.

SII is the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer and has partnered with multiple vaccine manufacturers that have candidates in clinical trials, including a widely watched one by Oxford University and AstraZeneca. If any of these vaccines are approved, SII is expected to produce around 400mn of them by the end of the year.

He was quick to add another tweet explaining the reason behind him asking the question. He said he asked 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.” The government has not responded to this tweet.

Then on Sunday, he praised Prime Minister NarendraModi over his coronavirus vaccine offer to the world during his speech at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and said it was a proud moment for India. Poonawalla also said that PM Modi's arrangements for India will take care of all the needs of the Indian people.

While Poonawalla didn’t reveal his arithmetic, but if he meant two doses each of the Oxford vaccine for a billion people, that would translate to ?400 per shot, a remarkably low cost. Since the formula is free, that figure presumably reflects just production and distribution expenses. Even so, it seems to highlight a global cost advantage, lending weight to Prime Minister NarendraModi’s assurance to the world of cheap vaccine availability. Indians, of course, will have to be accorded priority if and when that vaccine gets a go-ahead. And while Serum need not be the Centre’s sole supplier, its cost calculation can now serve as a rough basis on which to plan. Other Indian vaccine makers would have to beat Serum’s offer, so our final bill won’t have to be very high. Anything under ?1 trillion will be a bargain. Meanwhile, we must prepare for a logistical exercise that’ll need to be mounted on the scale of a general election.

Ever since the human trials of several Coronavirus vaccines started, concerns over vaccinating huge populations among developing and poor economies have been a concern. A mass vaccination program to ensure the supply of coronavirus vaccines to the developing and poor nations is also being run by various multilateral institutions such as the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, among others. The concerns have also been raised over the moves  by several rich nations led by the United States of America and other European nations to corner the first batch of vaccine doses for their own population at the cost of poor nations.

Sikkim at a Glance

  • Area: 7096 Sq Kms
  • Capital: Gangtok
  • Altitude: 5,840 ft
  • Population: 6.10 Lakhs
  • Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 to over 28,509 ft above sea level
  • Climate:
  • Summer: Min- 13°C - Max 21°C
  • Winter: Min- 0.48°C - Max 13°C
  • Rainfall: 325 cms per annum
  • Language Spoken: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Tibetan, English, Hindi