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Price and logistics will be the key factors that the government will consider while taking a decision on procuring a Covid vaccine, Finance Ministry officials have said.

This would mean that the government, without compromising on the efficacy of the vaccine, may rely on domestic manufacturers considering their pricing and ability to meet the logistic challenge. Currently, at least six domestic companies are working to develop or manufacture a Covid vaccine.

“Funding will not be a constraint. We will fund this through allocation to be made in the Budget for financial year 2021-22,” an official told BusinessLine. The indication is that the government intends providing vaccine doses to at least 30-40 crore people during the first six months of 2021, which means a requirement of up to 80 crore doses.

Domestic firms

Domestic companies working to develop or manufacture vaccine formulations include the Serum Institute of India (SII), Bharat Biotech, Zydus Cadilla, Biological E. Ltd, Hetero Biopharma and Dr Reddy’s Laboratories.

Though pricing has not been finalised, based on GAVI (formerly the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation) baseline and after including logistic and transportation costs, some of these companies could sell a dose at $3-3.5 (₹220-250) to the government.

At the same time, if Pfizer’s deal with the US government is considered as a baseline, the cost of two doses could go up to $40 (around ₹2,900), the official said.

Apart from cost, what works in favour of domestic manufacturers/developers is that vaccine may require storage between +2 and +8 degrees C. Vaccines from abroad may need to be stored at -20 to -70 degrees C.

On whether everyone will get a free vaccine shot under the Universal Immunisation Programme (under which immunisation is provided free against 12 diseases), the official said that no formal decision has been taken.

How much will it cost

While the government has not put a number on the funding requirement for the vaccination drive, there are various figures going around, between ₹50,000 crore and ₹80,000 crore. The final figure will be known through budget allocation to the Department of Health and Family Welfare for FY 2021-22.

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