Global vaccine manufacturers have enough capacity to supply to India

Annapurani. V Chennai | Updated on April 22, 2021

Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson are candidates in the reckoning

As the government looks to approve foreign-made Covid vaccines that have clearance for restricted use from regulatory authorities in the US, the European Union, the UK, and Japan apart from the ones listed by WHO, the immediate candidates in the reckoning would be those from Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson (J&J) or Janssen.

That brings us to two important questions — how much are they likely to cost in India and do these companies have the capacity to manufacture enough to supply to India?

Cost of the shots

First up, the prices. Among the three companies, J&J’s vaccine is priced the lowest per dose. UNICEF data showed that one dose of its costs an estimated $9 in the European Union and $10 in the US, which would roughly correspond to ₹675-750 per shot in India, at $1 = ₹75. J&J’s vaccine would also require only one jab, so this means that the overall cost to get vaccinated would amount only to ₹675-750, if the shots are imported; the import duties are waived off and no additional costs are incurred.

The Moderna and the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine prices stand at an almost equal footing with each other. One dose of the Moderna vaccine costs $18 in the European Union approximately, and $15 in the US, per data from UNICEF. This roughly translates to ₹1,350-1,125 per dose in India. Similarly, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine costs about $15-19 per dose in the European Union and $20 in the US, which corresponds to ₹1,125-1,425 or ₹1,500 per dose in India.


Now, both the Moderna and the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines require two shots per person, so the Moderna vaccine would roughly cost us between ₹2,250 and ₹2,700, and the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine, an estimated ₹2,250-2,850 or ₹3,000, if the European Union’s and the US’ prices are used as the benchmarks for reference.

If we were to look at the production capacity that these companies hope to achieve in 2021, Pfizer and BioNTech expect to ramp up their manufacturing facilities to produce up to 2.5 billion doses by the end of this year, per data from a recent BioNTech’s press release.

Emergency use nod

As of end-March, Pfizer and BioNTech’s BNT162b2 had the approval for emergency use in over 65 countries across the world, including the UK, the US, and the European Union. They have agreed to supply a total of 600 million doses to the European Union member states in 2021, and a cumulative of 300 million doses to the US by mid-July.

Likewise, Moderna also announced earlier that it is increasing its manufacturing facilities to produce 700 million doses in 2021 and is working to optimise its operations further to deliver up to 1 billion doses this fiscal. As of April 12, the company has cumulatively delivered about 132 million doses globally, including approximately 117 doses to the US. It has agreed to deliver 100 million more doses by May and another 100 million doses additionally by end-July to the US.

Data from Duke, Global Health Innovation Center via Launch and Scale Speedometer indicates that J&J’s planned manufacturing target for this year is 1 billion doses, and the firm has agreed to deliver a total of 100 million doses to the US by end-June.

If the doses promised to the US, the EU and other countries by these companies are to be discounted for, the manufacturing targets set for this year still leaves sufficient scope for the supply of doses to India, if we were to import their vaccine shots.

While J&J’s and Moderna’s vaccines can be stored at normal fridge temperatures (2-8 degree Celsius), Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine is stored and transported at -70 degree Celsius (between -60 and -80 degree Celsius) and must be stored up to 15 days in a thermal shipping box with dry ice. However, per a recent release from BioNTech, undiluted frozen vials of the vaccine may be transported and stored at -25 degree Celsius to -15 degree Celsius (pharmaceutical freezer temperature) for up to a period of two weeks.

Published on April 21, 2021

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