Despite India’s drug regulator DCGI (Drugs Controller General of India) clearing the Russian Sputnik V vaccine for use in the country, there is still no decision on the price at which the vaccine will be procured by the government. Price negotiations with the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) are yet to be concluded.
The rollout of the new vaccine in India is contingent on the successful conclusion of these negotiations and there are clear indicators that RDIF may not be able to match the price of $2 a dose that the government is presently paying for the AstraZeneca vaccine known as Covishield in India. Covishield is being produced by the Serum Institute of India.
”Sputnik in other markets it’s more expensive than AstraZeneca’s vaccine and I’m not sure that we can get exactly to that pricing given our production process,” said Kirill Dmitriev, the CEO of the RDIF in an interview to NDTV.
Currently, the Sputnik V vaccine is being marked at approximately $10 dollars a dose in other markets.
”So far, the pricing has been exactly the same for all the countries,” Mr Dmitriev said.
60 countries, including India, have registered for the use of the vaccine or have already begun its roll-out.
“We understand that there are some price control elements, to what (the) Indian government has and there are some ideas of having a different price in the private market versus (a) government contract,” Mr Dmitriev said.
At the moment, however, the government has firmly rejected the roll-out of any vaccine at commercial rates, repeatedly stressing the vaccines needed to be made available to priority groups identified by the Centre and at prices which it has set.
“I think the whole goal is not to really make, you know, huge returns of investments. Of course, we want to return our capital, but the whole goal is to really be a solution to the world that so much needs the vaccine,” he added.
The first doses of the Sputnik V vaccine will likely be available in India as direct imports in restricted numbers by the end of April.
“As you know, we also have five great manufacturers in India who will be producing doses as well. So, we see that May is the time when Sputnik will be launched in India, but of course it will take couple of months to really ramp up production capacity. So, we believe by June, we will really be at very good production capacity in India and will become a very meaningful player in vaccination program in India,” Mr Dmitriev added.
RDIF plans to ultimately manufacture 850 million doses in India. “I think India will really become the production hub of Sputnik, serving India and other markets,” he said.
The rollout of Sputnik V in India is also dependent on the logistics chain which presently exists in India. While RDIF believes that the vaccine can be stored and transported in standard refrigerators at a temperature of +2 to +8 degree Celsius, the government seems to believe otherwise.
In its press release today announcing the grant of an emergency use authorisation to the Sputnik V vaccine, the government said, “The vaccine has to be stored at -18 degrees Celsius”.
In his interview to NDTV, Mr Dmitriev said, ”The original formulation we had, had to have temperature of -18, but then we proved the stability of this liquid formulation at +2 to +8 degrees for two months. So basically, we will have, +2 to +8 degrees, which is regular refrigerator, (as a) last mile solution in India.”