Millions of doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine left the Serum Institute of India’s warehouses early Tuesday as the country of 1.3 billion people prepares to rollout the shot.
The first batches were loaded on flights in Pune and Chennai on Tuesday morning, with nine flights carrying 5.7 million doses headed to 13 cities, including Delhi and Bengaluru, according to Hardeep Singh Puri, India’s civil aviation minister.
The Serum Institute of India is the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer. It has conducted trials and has manufactured the AstraZeneca vaccine for distribution across the country.
According to a source with knowledge of the deal, the Indian government has agreed to purchase each dose of the vaccine at Rs 200 ($2.72).
“Serum Institute of India has got an order of approximately 11 million vaccine doses from the Indian government,” said the source.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the country expects to vaccinate 300 million people in the next few months.
“We already have a mechanism for universal immunization which has been strengthened for Covid vaccination… Covid protocols will have to be implemented during this, even a bit of looseness can cause damage,” Modi said during a meeting on Monday.
India has registered a total of 10.5 million cases, including 151,327 fatalities since the start of the pandemic, the world’s third-highest death toll. On Tuesday, it saw its lowest daily rise in cases in almost seven months, with 12,584 new infections.