May start vaccine exports by year end, India remains priority: Serum

May start vaccine exports by year end, India remains priority: Serum
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The world’s largest vaccine maker of India (SII) which is making the AstraZeneca and Novavax vaccines for Covid-19 in India said that it may start supplies to the global Covid vaccine alliance Covax by the end of this year. In a statement the firm also noted that it continues to prioritise India and has never exported Covid vaccines at the ‘cost of the people in India’.

In a message posted on micro-blogging site Twitter, SII said that it has delivered more than 200 million doses, even though it received EUA two months after the US 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,” the statement by SII CEO Adar Poonawalla said.

Poonawalla said that they hoped to start delivering to Covax and other countries by the end of this year. “We would like to reiterate that we have never exported vaccines at the cost of the people in India and remain committed to do everything we can in support of the vaccination drive in the country. We have been working with the government tirelessly to do our best for humanity and will continue in the same spirit,” he added.

After the third phase of Covid vaccination started with people above 18 years being made eligible to get the jab, the Centre has come under severe criticism on vaccine availability and shortage. Many states had to halt vaccinations for the 18-44 age group citing vaccine shortage. Police made arrests in Delhi, reportedly, after some people posted posters criticizing Covid vaccine exports last week.

SII now makes 65-70 million doses of Covishield per month and aims to ramp up production to 100 mn doses per month by July.

In January SII had a large stockpile of vaccine doses, and the Indian vaccination drive had started successfully. The number of daily cases being recorded were at an all time low, SII said. “At that stage, most people including health experts believed that India was turning the tide on the pandemic. Around the same time, many other countries in the world were facing an acute crisis and were in desperate need of help. Our Government extended support wherever possible during this period,” he said.

Poonawalla said that cooperation between countries also forms the basis to get access to technology and aid for healthcare. He gave the example of India supplying hydroxychloroquine, a drug used in Covid treatment, to 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,” Poonawalla says.

India being one of the most populous countries in the world cannot complete the vaccination drive within 2-3 months, SII said on Tuesday adding that it would take 2-3 years for the entire world population to get fully vaccinated.

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