Published On: Sat, Nov 28th, 2020

Centre seeks 300-400 mn vaccine doses, says SII’s Poonawalla

Pune: The Government of India is looking at getting 300-400 million doses of coronavirus vaccine by July, which is being developed by an international health consortium that includes Punes Serum Institute of India (SII), a top official said here on Saturday.

Presently, we have nothing in writing from the government on how many doses it will buy

The Covidshield vaccine is being developed jointly by the Oxford University, AstraZeneca and SII. SII is the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi spent time on Saturday evening to check on the vaccine status.

Mod was accorded a warm welcome by SII’s Founder-Chairman Cyrus Poonawalla, CEO Adar Poonawalla, his wife and Executive Director Natasha A. Poonawalla and other officials.

Currently, the SII is producing around 50-60 million doses which would be scaled up to to 100 million by January 2021, said SII CEO Adar Poonawalla in a video-conference with the media.

“Presently, we have nothing in writing from the government on how many doses it will buy, but the indication is that the need would be for around 300-400 million doses by July 2021,” Poonawalla said, shortly after the PM’s visit at SII’s sprawling manufacturing facility in Hadapsar, on the outskirts of Pune.

The SII discussed with the PM the implementation plan for the vaccine after getting the emergency use approval. After that the Health Ministry will roll out the doses in the first and second quarter of 2021, subject to SII making its submissions and securing the necessary clearances.

He said the vaccine trials have got good efficacy results with “zero hospitalisation” among those who took it and those who had caught the virus were not infecting it, with plans to extend the trials to persons below 18 years of age, said Poonawalla.

The CEO added that the company honchos were impressed by the PM’s “good knowledge of vaccines and its production”, saying “there was very little he needed to be explained”.

The SII CEO added that the company’s priority is India since the Covidshild vaccine will be initially distributed domestically.

“Then we shall look at at the COVAX countries which are mainly in Africa, while the UK and European markets are being handled by AstraZeneca and Oxford University. Our priority is India and COVAX countries,” Poonawalla asserted.

The PM came to the SII during his daylong flying visits to three cities where he visited the facilities engaged in developing Covid-19 vaccine, including Bharat Biotech in Hyderabad and Zydus Biotech Park in Ahmedabad.

During his visit to SII, Modi went around the plant premises, including the state-of-the-art new facility which can handle manufacturing of one billion doses, accompanied by senior officials of the company, who explained the details of the vaccine manufacturing process to the Prime Minister.

“Had a good interaction with the team at Serum Institute of India. They shared details about their progress so far on how they plan to further ramp up vaccine manufacturing. Also took a look at their manufacturing facility,” Modi tweeted after his visit, sharing pictures.

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