Even as the first shipment of Covid-19 vaccines took place, in light of putting an end to the pandemic, the government has committed to buy further 4.5 crore doses of Oxford Covid-19 vaccine, Covishield, from the Serum Institute at a price of Rs 200 per shot plus applicable taxes by April, in addition to a firm order given to the company for 1.1 crore doses.

From Tuesday morning, flights have started ferrying the vaccines to different cities from Pune.

Each dose of the vaccine has been priced at Rs 200 and with GST of Rs 10, it would cost Rs 210, according to the purchase order placed on Monday.

The HLL Lifecare Limited, a public sector undertaking, issued the supply orders on behalf of the Union Health Ministry on Monday.

The first order of 1.1 crore doses of Covishield will be worth Rs 231 crore, while the total amount including the commitment for 4.5 crore doses will amount to an estimated Rs 1,176 crore at current rates, according to sources.

"It is further informed that there is a commitment to purchase further 450 lakh doses from Serum Institute of India Pvt Limited, a manufacturer (through subsidiary Serum Institute of Life Sciences Pvt Limited) at Rs 200 per dose plus GST if applicable by April 2021," the letter of comfort signed by Prakash Kumar Singh, Additional Director, Government and Regulatory Affairs at Serum Institute of India (SII) and RS Manku, Vice President (Govt Business) stated.

"This is in continuation to the supply order dated January 11 for supply of 1.1 crore doses of Covishield vaccine as approved by DCGI vide permission dated January 3 for restricted use in emergency situation," it stated.

On Monday, the government also placed an order with Bharat Biotech for 55 lakh doses of indigenously developed Covaxin costing Rs 162 crore.

India had recently approved two vaccines, Oxford's Covishield manufactured by SII in the country and Bharat Biotech's Covaxin, for restricted emergency use.

The country will launch its Covid-19 vaccination drive from January 16 in what Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called the world's largest inoculation programme with priority to be given to nearly three crore healthcare and frontline workers.

According to the COVID-19 Vaccine Operational Guidelines, the shots will be offered first to an estimated one crore healthcare workers, and around two crore frontline workers, and then to persons above 50 years of age, followed by persons younger than 50 years of age with associated comorbidities based on evolving pandemic situation.

(With inputs from agency)