India may soon add the fourth Covid-19 vaccine to its portfolio since private hospitals are intending to procure 100 million shots of Johnson and Johnson’s (J&J) single-dose Covid-19 vaccine, Janssen, from the European Union’s (EU) reserve.

The Association of Healthcare Providers India (AHPI) has initiated the procurement process and the allotment is expected to happen within a few days.

The association, which represents 10,000 large to small hospitals, told The Statesman that demand of around 6 million doses have been already expressed by 750 hospitals based in tier II and III cities.

AHPI’s director-general Dr Girdhar Gyani said the association is in talks with EU’s Covid-19 task force and the allotment may be finalized within two to three days.

The EU Council’s Covid task force has been granted a quota of 400 million jabs of Janssen to supply over developing and Lower and Middle-Income Countries (LMIC).

Gyani informed The Statesman that his association is trying to purchase 100 million shots from that quota through a private agency that is currently facilitating the government in the logistics of the Covid-19 vaccines during their import/export process.

“The agency will purchase the Janssen’s doses on our behalf since we are an association and can’t be involved in the commerce directly. After the purchase, the vaccine will distribute to the private hospitals as per their demand,” he said.

At Rs 750, most affordable among vaccines in India’

Speaking on the cost, Gyani informed the Janssen would be the most affordable among India’s Covid vaccines’ portfolio. It will cost less than Serum Institute of India’s Covishield and will available close to Rs 750 to the customers, he stated.

“We will be getting it (Janssen) at an agreement of 5 Euros for a dose. Even If we include freight charges, import duty, miscellaneous charges and also the service charge of Rs 150 levied by private hospitals, its final price will come around rs 750 and is lesser than the cost of Covishield,” Gyani said.

“Janssen provides immunity against Covid-19 with a single-dose so people have to pay just once unlike other vaccines with two doses regimen like Covishield and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin. This property makes Janssen more affordable,” he added.

The three vaccines–Covishiled, Covaxin and Russia’s Sputnik V–are available for the general public in private facilities at Rs 780, 1,410 and 1,1145 respectively.

Gyani also informed that a few corporates have shown interest to bear 10 per cent of the vaccines’ cost so that it is provided free to the underprivileged class.

‘Game-changer in allaying hesitancy’

The AHPI expects J&J’s vaccine to be a game-changer in allaying vaccine hesitancy due to its affordability and logistical advantage for a vast country like India, especially in tier II and tier III areas.

“It doesn’t need deep refrigerators for storage. With the affordability and logistical advantage, Janssen may become a game-changer in improving vaccination coverage in rural and remote areas,” Gyani stated.

Both Covishield and Covaxin require to be stored at a temperature of 2-8 degrees while Sputnik V demands a refrigeration point of minus 18 degrees.

Whereas the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), USA recommends Janssen to be stored at 2-8 degrees. The viral vector vaccine requires only one dose as opposed to 2 doses by most other vaccines. The J&J’s vaccine has been granted emergency use authorization by the USA’ FDA.