Spelling out the next challenge for India in fighting the coronavirus pandemic, Serum Institute of India (SII) CEO Adar Poonawalla on Saturday asked if the central government has Rs 80,000 crore to spend over the next one year on purchase and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines.

“Quick question; will the government of India have 80,000 crores available, over the next one year? Because that's what @MoHFW_INDIA needs, to buy and distribute the vaccine to everyone in India. This is the next concerning challenge we need to tackle,” Poonawalla tweeted, tagging the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) as well.

The Pune-based Serum Institute of India, the world's largest vaccine maker by number of doses produced, is working on several vaccine candidates for the novel coronavirus, including potentially mass-producing the one from AstraZeneca-Oxford University that has garnered global headlines, as well as developing its own.

The firm is also doing the clinical trials of AstraZeneca's vaccine candidate in India. It received approval from the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) to resume local clinical trials of the vaccine candidate on September 16, after a week’s halt following serious side effect in a trial participant in the UK.

The Serum Institute had entered into a manufacturing partnership with AstraZeneca to produce and supply 1 billion doses of the Covid-19 vaccine. In August, it had signed a deal with US drug developer Novavax to produce a minimum of one billion doses of its vaccine candidate, when approved, for low- and middle-income countries and India. The deal was recently doubled to two billion doses annually.

Health minister Harsh Vardhan had told the recently concluded Monsoon Session of Parliament that nearly 30 Covid vaccine candidates in pre-clinical and clinical stages are under development in India. Three of them are in advanced stage of Phase I/II/III trials and 4 are in advanced pre-clinical development stage, he had said, adding that distribution of the Covid-19 vaccines, when available, would be done as per the protocols under Universal Immunization Program (UIP).

The government had in May allocated Rs 100 crore to support vaccine development from the PM Cares corpus set up in March to raise funds for a prolonged battle against the coronavirus.

India's Covid-19 outbreak is the fastest growing in the world, with the tally sprinting past 59 lakh on Saturday and the death toll mounting to 93,379.
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