The Indian government today placed an order with Serum Institute of India (SII) to purchase the first tranche of 11 million doses of the Covishield vaccine at 210 rupees each, official sources said.
The transportation of the first consignment of the vaccine, developed by Oxford University and British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, is likely to start by tonight, they said.
India will start vaccinating its people from January 16, setting off the world's largest inoculation programme with priority to be given to nearly three crore healthcare and frontline workers.
According to the Indian government's order placed today, each dose of the vaccine has been priced at 200 rupees and a Goods and Services tax of 10 rupees will be added for a total price of 210 rupees.
HLL Lifecare Limited, a public sector undertaking, issued the supply order on behalf of the Indian health ministry in the name of Prakash Kumar Singh, additional director, government and regulatory affairs, at SII.
The Covishield vaccine doses would be initially shipped to 60 consignment points across India from where those would be distributed further, the sources said.
The health ministry is also likely to soon sign a purchase order for India's indigenous Covid-19 vaccine, Covaxin, which has been developed by Bharat Biotech, sources said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said the government of India, not state governments, will bear the expenses for the first phase of vaccination of three crore healthcare and frontline workers.
Oxford's Covishield and Covaxin were recently granted permission by the Drug Controller General of India for emergency use.
After vaccinating healthcare and frontline workers, priority will be given to those above 50 years of age and the under-50 population groups with co-morbidities, together estimated to be around 27 crore.
Modi said India has completed vaccination dry runs in almost every district of the country, which he termed "a massive achievement."
He said the two approved vaccines in India are "more cost-effective than foreign vaccines and have been developed as per our needs".
Speaking with the chief ministers of all states, Modi pointed out that while only about 2.5 crore people have been vaccinated globally so far, "we've to achieve vaccination of 30 crore citizens in the next few months".
"Our scientists and medical experts have taken all precautions to provide our citizens with effective vaccines," the PM said.