Biological E’s recombinant protein Covid-19 vaccine, Corbevax, could well emerge as the most affordable of vaccines in the Indian market once it gets emergency use approval. It is slated to be rolled out at a sub-Rs 500 pricing, not for one dose but both the doses, and may even be priced below Rs 400 for two doses. Biological E managing director Mahima Datla had hinted at this in an exclusive interview to TOI earlier, adding the pricing was yet to be finalised.
SII’s Covishield is priced at Rs 300 a dose for state governments and Rs 600 a dose for private hospitals, while the corresponding figures for Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin are Rs 400 and Rs 1,200. Russian vaccine Sputnik V has been priced at Rs 995 per jab.
Corbevax is undergoing phase III trials and with phase I & II trials showing promising results, the Centre has pre-booked 30 crore doses for an advance payment of Rs 1,500 crore or Rs 50 per dose.
The earliest indication of Corbevax’s pricing strategy came from Dr Maria Elena Bottazi, associate dean, National School of Tropical Medicine (NSTM) at Texas-based Baylor College of Medicine (BCM), who was quoted as saying the vaccine, which is modelled after the hepatitis B vaccine and uses traditional technology, is cheap to produce at only about $1.5 (Rs 110 approximately) per dose. Biological E is collaborating with BCM for the receptor binding domain (RBD) protein vaccine.
While Biological E has already begun at-risk manufacturing of the vaccine over the past month or so, Datla had expressed confidence that the company would be in a position to begin full-fledged production of 75-80 million doses per month from August.
If the vaccine gets EUA by July-August, the huge volumes that it will churn out can substantially ease the vaccine crunch that has hobbled the country’s vaccination drive.