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US, Europe withholding critical raw material needed for COVID-19 vaccine production: SII CEO Adar Poonawalla

"I wish I could go there and protest in the US myself to say that you are holding back critical raw material that is required for Covaxin and so many vaccine manufacturers in India and other parts of the world," said Poonawalla.

Adar Poonawalla, the CEO of the Serum Institute of India today revealed that the production of COVID-19 vaccines in the country had taken a hit because of the restrictions imposed by the United States and the European countries on the export of critical raw material.

Speaking in an interview with India Today, Poonawalla spilt the beans on the problems faced by his organisation in ramping up the COVID-19 vaccine production even as the country is in the grips of a resurgent coronavirus outbreak.

“I wish I could go there and protest in the US myself to say that you are holding back critical raw material that are required for Covaxin and so many vaccine manufacturers in India and other parts of the world,” Poonawalla said while expressing his anguish over the unavailability of key raw materials needed to scale up COVID-19 vaccine production.

He added that the shortage and and struggling for raw material is for short term because in a few months, they will be able to develop other suppliers.

Poonawalla also added that SII is not looking to import raw material from China because of its quality issues and other supply constraints.

SII trying to double production capacity

To address the dire need for the coronavirus vaccine in the country, the Serum Institute of India is planning to double the monthly production of its COVID-19 vaccine Covishield. Poonawalla said that right now the SII is producing 6 to 6.5 crore doses of Covishield every month and the company is adding capacities to ramp up its production to 10-11 crores by June this year.

The Pune-based Serum Institute of India is the world’s largest manufacturer of vaccines. It is currently manufacturing the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine. This vaccine is being marketed in India under the name ‘Covishield’.

Besides Covishield, the Drugs Controller General in India has approved emergency usage of indigenously developed Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin. At present, people above 45 are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccines in India.

When asked about his organisation’s strategy to cope up with the increasing demand for vaccines in India, the drug mogul responded that his organisation is prioritising the needs of India first. He said the Serum Institute of India is working with the central government at this stage at this price point to take care of Indians first.

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