Adar Poonawalla, Chief Executive Officer of Serum Institute of India, which manufactures the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, has alleged that he was getting aggressive calls from the 'most powerful,' including chief ministers, business tycoons and others over supply of the Covishield vaccine.
In an interview with 'The Times,' he mentions that the Indian government provided him with 'Y' category security after he was threatened on several occasions by people who are demanding Covidshield-the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 that is being produced by the SII institute in Pune.
The 40-year-old entrepreneur told the newspaper, “I’m staying here (London) an extended time because I don't want to go back to that situation. Everything falls on my shoulders but I can't do it alone...I don’t want to be in a situation where you are just trying to do your job, and just because you can’t supply the needs of X, Y or Z you really don’t want to guess what they are going to do.”
Questioning the rationale behind the askings, Poonawalla said, "Everyone feels they should get the vaccine. They can’t understand why anyone else should get it before them.”
Covishield is among the two vaccines that are currently being used in the mass inoculation drive in India.
Elaborating on his decision to move to London, Poonawalla said that he plans to expand vaccine manufacturing to countries outside India. “There’s going to be an announcement in the next few days,” he said when asked about his next manufacturing hub for the vaccine production.
Poonawalla flew out before the UK closed the window on arrivals from India.
On the production part, the businessman explained that by the time the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine was approved in January this year, the Serum Institute of India had increased its annual production capacity from 1.5 to 2.5 billion doses at a cost of USD 800 million, and stockpiled 50 million doses of Covishield. At that point, India was looking to slowly move towards the post-pandemic situation, which completely reversed in less than a month.
The company had by then started exporting to 68 countries, including Britain.
“I don’t think even God could have forecast it was going to get this bad,” Poonawalla said in 'The Times’ interview.
About the pricing of Covishield, Poonawalla said it is “the most affordable vaccine on the planet” even at a higher price.
“We have done the best we can without cutting corners or doing anything wrong or profiteering. I’ll wait for history to judge,” he said.
In the last 24 hours, India has recorded over four lakh cases, the first country to do so in the pandemic. Over three thousand fatalities were also recorded, bringing the overall death count to 2,11,853.