PH, India to hold talks for purchase of Covaxin doses; initial 8m supply ‘achievable’ – envoy

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 11)— The Philippine government is expected to hold formal negotiations with India-based company Bharat Biotech to buy doses of its Covaxin vaccine, the South Asian country’s ambassador said on Thursday.

In an interview with CNN Philippines, Indian Ambassador to the Philippines Shambhu Kumaran said the company’s local representatives have been in contact with concerned officials for this possible purchase, adding they would be ready to supply an initial batch of at least 8 million vaccine doses.

“Eight million is definitely achievable,” Kumaran told The Source. “We’re looking at anything upwards of 8 million, over a period of time. Over a period of a year to 18 months we could even go up to 20 million doses. It really depends on the kind of agreement that we can reach.”

“The earlier we have these negotiations, the earlier we close the term sheet, the larger the number of vaccine doses that may be available,” he added.

Bharat Biotech has also already shared an indicative price for its product, Kumaran noted.

The Covaxin, which has reported an efficacy rate of 81%, was the fourth product to apply for emergency use approval in the Philippines – an issuance needed for it to be legally rolled out in the country. However, its application remained pending, with the Food and Drug Administration waiting for the vaccine’s Phase 3 clinical trial data.

Kumaran said this was already submitted to the FDA.

“That data with regard to the interim efficacy trial was shared earlier this week. That now completes to our mind the documentation requirements to make the EUA possible in a very urgent timeframe,” the envoy stressed, adding that the company may be able to supply a “significant number” of doses by April or May if everything goes well.

The Covaxin vaccine is jointly developed by India’s leading manufacturer Bharat Biotech together with the government-run Indian Council of Medical Research. Several millions of doses of the product have already been administered in India, Kumaran said.

Aside from talks with Bharat Biotech, government officials and experts also flew to India this week in a bid to secure the anticipated 30 million doses of Novavax’s vaccine.