The government yesterday signed a trilateral memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Serum Institute of India (SII) and Bangladesh’s Beximco Pharmaceuticals Ltd to collect three crore doses of Covid-19 vaccines from Serum.
Pune-based Serum has an agreement with AstraZeneca to manufacture the vaccine, ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, being developed by the Oxford University. The vaccine has been named Covishield in India.
Once the vaccine is approved for human application, Beximco Pharma will buy each dose from Serum for $4 and then supply it to the government for $5.
The three crore doses will be delivered in phases with 50 lakh doses every month, according to the agreement.
Each person will need two doses.
The MoU was signed at the health ministry’s conference room in the capital, in the presence of Health Minister Zahid Maleque and Indian High Commissioner Vikram K Doraiswami.
Md Mostafa Kamal, additional secretary at the ministry, Rabbur Reza, chief operating officer of Beximco Pharmaceuticals Ltd, and Sandeep Malay, additional director of SII, signed the agreement.
Beximco Pharma is Serum’s sole distributor in Bangladesh.
“We are signing this MoU under the condition that we will take it [the vaccine] only if it is approved by the World Health Organization,” the minister said in his speech at the deal-signing ceremony.
The government plans to vaccinate frontline health workers and people aged 65 and above in the first phase, said a health ministry official.
The health minister said, “We will be able to vaccinate a total of 1.5 crore people with these vaccine doses.”
Neither the minister nor any official of his ministry, however, said whether the vaccines would be free of cost for people.
Details of the MoU were not disclosed immediately.
The Beximco will collect and transport the Covishield vaccines to storage facilities under the health directorate’s Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) cold-chain network. The vaccine doses must be stored at 2-8 degrees Celsius.
Officials said the EPI has the storage capacity.
“They will supply the vaccines in phases — 50 lakh doses each month. We have enough capacity to store them. We, however, will place proposals before our high-ups to increase the capacity if our regular vaccination programme does not get hampered,” Shamsul Haque Mridha, director of the EPI programme, told The Daily Star yesterday.
The Covishield, originally named as ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 by the inventor organisations — Oxford University and AstraZeneca — is a viral vector vaccine, which is at the final stage trial in multiple countries.
It could be ready as early as December, reported The Indian Express on October 28.
In an interview with NDTV, Adar Poonawalla, CEO of Serum Institute, which is currently conducting late-stage trials of the vaccine in India, said the first batch of 100 million doses should be available by the second or third quarter of next year.
The India Times in a report on August 7 said the SII — the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer in terms of volume — has capped the price of Covid-19 vaccine at $3 per dose for low and middle income countries, including India, as part of a new partnership with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.