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Sputnik vaccine for Covid-19 unveiled in India: Rs 1,000 a shot, in cities by mid-June

At a little over Rs 995 per dose — not just for private hospitals but also for central and state governments — this will be the most expensive vaccine so far in the country’s mass immunisation programme.

Written by Prabha Raghavan | New Delhi |
Updated: May 15, 2021 7:28:31 am
Vials of Sputnik V (File photo)

A batch of 150,000 doses of Sputnik V has been cleared after quality and stability tests for distribution in select cities and tier 1 metros, Dr Reddy’s Laboratories (DRL), which has an agreement with the Russian manufacturer of the Covid-19 vaccine, said on Friday.

At a little over Rs 995 per dose — not just for private hospitals but also for central and state governments — this will be the most expensive vaccine so far in the country’s mass immunisation programme. In private hospitals though, a Sputnik V jab is likely to cost less than Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin.

The vaccine received a soft launch in Hyderabad on Friday. The Sputnik V Twitter handle posted a photo of DRL’s CEO for its API and Services Business, Deepak Sapra, being administered the first dose.

The vaccine will be available for customers by mid-June, when commercial shipments are expected to begin, DRL said. The company, which has an agreement with its Russian partner to acquire 250 million doses of Sputnik V, expects to be able to vaccinate at least 125 million Indians over the next 8-12 months.

Around 15-20 per cent — or up to 50 million of these doses — are expected to be supplied from Russia, while the company waits for local production of the vaccine to pick up.

DRL is also in discussions with the partner, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), on receiving approvals for “Sputnik Light”, a single-dose version of the vaccine.

“We have received the first 150,000 doses (of Sputnik V)…which is the initial lot for us to test the supply chain across both the private as well as the government channel,” M V Ramana, CEO of the Hyderabad company’s Branded Markets (India and Emerging Markets) business, said at a press briefing on the company’s financial results for the fourth quarter of 2020-21.

“We have a commitment over the next couple of months of about 36 million doses that we are expecting to get from RDIF,” he said.

“Currently, we are working, as far as logistics is concerned, in about 35 cities. I think, in about a week’s time, we will have a much better hold on the exact city and, within the city, how we will be able to find the right partners who have the cold chain (capabilities and) would be able to vaccinate,” he told The Indian Express in response to a query about which cities the vaccine is expected to become available in to start with.

Six Indian contract manufacturers, including Hetero Biopharma, Gland Pharma, and Stelis Biopharma, are expected to begin supplying doses of the vaccine from July onward, the company said.

Until then, the price of the vaccine has been set at Rs 948 per dose, plus 5 per cent GST. “This (is) considering the import, the logistics and the distribution cost. However, the prices may come down once we start locally manufacturing the product,” Ramana said.

“The Rs 948 plus 5 per cent (tax) is the price for both the private (players) as well as the government. We are in discussions with a couple of the state governments and we will see how that will pan out,” he told The Indian Express.

Compared with this, the Centre has been procuring Serum Institute of India’s Covishield and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin at Rs 150 per dose for use in its programme to immunise those above the age of 45 years. Covishield’s price for states to vaccinate 18-44-year-olds is Rs 300 per dose; Covaxin is offered to states at Rs 400 per dose.

Ramana said negotiations with the government and talks with private hospitals for procurement of Sputnik V were still underway.

“Currently, we are in discussions with the government. We have not yet finalised the quantities to any of the government(s) and, hence, are not able to disclose,” he said.

Sputnik V has an efficacy of 91.6 per cent, according to research data published in the scientific journal The Lancet. This means the vaccine has the ability to bring down symptomatic Covid-19 cases by nearly 92 per cent in those vaccinated compared with those who have not received a Covid vaccine.

For now, the vaccine will be available in India in liquid form, which means DRL will tie up with hospitals that have the ability to store it at minus 18°C. The company is also in the process of seeking approval for a freeze-dried form of the vaccine, which will require storage at only 2°C to 8°C.

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