Bharat Biotech Joint Managing Director says it may cost around Rs.300 per dose; Committed to distribute vaccine to ‘Bharat’ first
Mysore/Mysuru: All know that Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech is involved in developing Covaxin, a possible vaccine for the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic. But hardly a few know that two persons behind this company had stayed in ‘Namma Mysuru’ for a few years before flying to United States of America (USA) to pursue higher studies on a scholarship.
The couple, Dr. Krishna Ella, Chairman and Managing Director (CMD) and Suchitra K. Ella, Joint Managing Director of Bharat Biotech, was staying near Sterling Theatre in Vidyaranyapuram and then shifted to a house near Ramakrishna Vidyashala in Yadavagiri for 5-6 years.
Dr. Krishna, who had obtained M.Sc degree from University of Agricultural Sciences, Hebbal, Bengaluru, had worked for a multi-national company and that had made him to travel across the State. Despite spending 13-14 years in USA and subsequently setting up a vaccine manufacturing company, Suchitra Ella has not lost touch of Kannada. She spoke eloquently to a Kannada TV channel last night on the current status of COVID-19 vaccine development and its pricing.
She categorically stated that the Company was just 3 to 4 months away from declaring a perfect vaccine for COVID-19. According to her, vaccine development around the world would take at least 15-20 years. However, all Companies, Governments, Research Institutes and Universities have joined hands together to do something as the pandemic has snatched away lives and livelihood of crores of people besides posing a threat to the entire mankind.
Though the entire nation was under ‘Janata Curfew’ for over two months, the Company staff worked day and night for almost eight months. The strain came from National Institute of Virology (NIV), an institute of National Excellence established by Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). All the blood samples of Corona positive cases during initial days were shared with our company. In fact, the first RT-PCR test was done at the NIV.
Will Covaxin work on children?
Suchitra said this vaccine is not for children as they have to conduct research in this regard in the coming days. Since the pandemic was affecting adults, their main focus was on finding a suitable vaccine for them. Scientists are researching whether children below 12 years of age have some kind of immunity or resistance power as they are given around 8-10 different kinds of vaccines as advised by World Health Organisation (WHO). It is believed that they are more protective because of these vaccines.
Pricing of vaccine
“I will say with confidence that the price of Covaxin will not be like 20 or 40 dollars (Rs. 1,472.14 – Rs. 2,944.28). Our price may be around Rs. 250 to Rs. 300 per dose. It will be made affordable for the entire population. The pricing of our vaccine will be lowest in the world. Already, we are supplying pulse polio vaccine for just 2 dollars (Rs. 147.21). We have capacity and capability to manufacture vaccine for any disease. A few years ago, the Government of India asked three companies to be ready with production of vaccine for H1N1 (swine flu) and one among them has been our company. I came to know that the Government of India is in consultation with all the States to collect details of healthcare workers who need to be inoculated first plus others in first phase,” she pointed out.
Considering the billion population of India, will it be possible for your company to ramp up production?
“We are ready to roll-out 300-500 million doses in a given time, thanks to our infrastructure facilities in Hyderabad. I will also clear the air that we are not going to export our vaccine to other countries. We can’t think of supplying to others before distributing to our people. The same is followed by the Companies in other countries also,” Suchitra said.
How many doses will each one have to take?
She said each person will have to take two doses. On the first day and again on 28th day. The clinical trial of Covaxin is in third stage and they require around 2,000 volunteers. So far, the vaccine has been effective on 26,000 volunteers in first and second trials. We will come to know about the efficacy of our vaccine from three months report. “But, I can say with confidence that our company vaccine’s efficacy will be more than three other candidates. At this juncture, it is also very difficult to say that the vaccine will give protection lifelong as there are reports of new strains. This vaccine will not be effective on new strains.”
Why are people resisting to take vaccine?
She said it is due to lack of awareness. In fact, safety of vaccine has already been proved. There will be no side-effects whatsoever by taking vaccine. “I am confident of achieving success. We will not rest till we come out with flying colours soon. We are committed to manufacturing and distributing the vaccine to our ‘Bharat’ people first.”