Did not export vaccines at the cost of Indian people: Serum Institute

Our Bureau Mumbai | Updated on May 19, 2021

If we look at total doses produced and delivered, we rank among the top three in the world: Adar Poonawala

Vaccine-maker Serum Institute of India has clarified that it did not export its Covid-19 vaccines despite the needs of the country.

“We would like to reiterate that we have never exported vaccines at the cost of the people in India,” said Serum Chief Executive Adar Poonawalla in a statement. His clarification comes even as the Centre and the company drew criticism from various quarters on why vaccines were exported, even as projections showed that India would fall short of supplies to vaccinate even the initial lot of people prioritised to take the shot.

Serum makes the AstraZeneca-OxfordUniversity vaccine for India and other low- and middle-income countries, and is one of two vaccines initially approved for roll-out. And, according to the Ministry of External Affairs, about 66 million vaccines from these two companies had been exported.

Outlining the backdrop to the exports, he said: “In January 2021 we had a large stockpile of vaccine doses. Our vaccination drive had started successfully and the number of daily cases being recorded were at an all-time low. At that stage, most people, including health experts, believed that India was turning the tide on the pandemic.”

Around the same time, other countries were facing an acute crisis and needed help, he said, pointing to the government stepping in to “extend support” to these countries.

“The cooperation between countries also forms the basis for us getting access to technology and aid for healthcare. Today, it is this reciprocity, where India has helped other countries with the supply of HCQ (hydroxychloroquine) and vaccine exports, that has in turn led to support from other countries.” “Further, as part of our global alliances, we also had commitments to Covax, so that they could distribute the vaccines around the world to end the pandemic,” he added.

WHO reminder

In fact, on Monday, World Health Organisation chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus reminded Serum of its commitment. “Once the devastating outbreak in India recedes, we also need the Serum Institute of India to get back on track and catch up on its delivery commitments to Covax,” he said.

Serum has delivered more than 200 million doses, said Poonawalla, even though they received emergency authorisation two months after American pharma companies.

“If we look at total doses produced and delivered, we rank among the top three in the world. We continue to scale up manufacturing and prioritise India. We also hope to start delivering to Covax and other countries by the end of this year,” he added.

The company expects to produce about 100 million doses by June / July.

Published on May 18, 2021

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