Covishield: Asked to prioritise for India needs, says SII’s Poonawalla

SII has already supplied 20 million doses to the Indian government. Around 30 million doses have been despatched by the company so far.

The Indian government has directed vaccine maker, Serum Institute of India (SII) to prioritise for meeting the Covid-19 vaccination needs of India. Adar Poonawalla, CEO, SII tweeted on Sunday urging other countries and governments that are awaiting Covishield supplies to be patient.

SII has been directed to prioritise to cater to the huge needs of India and along with that balance the needs of the rest of the world, Poonawalla tweeted. Serum was trying its best to do this, he said.

The government has set a target of vaccinating three crore frontline workers in the first phase and 30 crore people with age over 50 years and with co-morbidities in the next phase. The vaccination drive that started on January 14 has now inoculated 1.08 crore people.

SII has already supplied 20 million doses to the Indian government. Around 30 million doses have been despatched by the company so far.

SII had stockpiled 100 million doses of the Covishield AstraZeneca Oxford vaccine. Serum Institute has capacity to make around 70 million doses a month at present and this capacity would be going up to 100 million doses per month by April 2021 with the addition of a third plant in Pune.

Poonawalla was confident of supplying enough vaccines to meet the needs of the Indian market as well as supplying to other countries. Poonawala had said in a earlier media interaction that India would be priority for the doses and there will be plenty of vaccines for India and other COVAX countries. Around 50% of SII stock would be going to COVAX countries, Poonawalla had said. He had anticipated some shortage in the first six months of 2021 in the global markets and easing off by August-September 2021 as other vaccine manufacturers started their vaccine supplies.

Serum has committed to supplying 1.1 billion doses of the AstraZeneca – Oxford Covid-19 vaccine to the COVAX facility. Post approval from the WHO, SII is slated to start shipping 20 million doses by end of February 2021 to African countries that are part of GAVI’s COVAX facility. SII also tied up with US biotech company, Novavax for manufacturing and selling the Novavax vaccine (NVX-CoV2373) from India. Novavax had on February 18, 2021 made a joint commitment along with SII to supply 1.1 billion doses to COVAX facility through the GAVI vaccine alliance. SII has got funds of around $ 500 million from the Gates Foundation and other countries for manufacturing the vaccine and scaling up. SII has also put in its own $ 270 million investment for rolling out the Covid-19 vaccines.

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