Threatened by chief ministers, Poonawalla may shift vaccine production to UK

1st May 2021

1st May 2021

Covishield production might be shifted out of India to most probably United Kingdom. The manufacturer Serum Institute of India (SII) CEO Adar Poonawalla told The London Times he has been receiving menacing phone calls which include chief ministers of Indian states. 

Others who have been threatening Poonawalla, as per him, include heads of business conglomerates and others demanding instant supplies of Covishield vaccine. 

Said Poonawalla: “Threat’s is an understatement…the level of expectation and aggression is really unprecedented. It’s overwhelming.” He termed the threatening phone calls the “worst thing.”

Poonawalla, only days ago, was given Y category security by the Government of India. The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) will provide him the cover. 

This decision by the Union government came after the director, government and regulatory affairs at SII, Prakash Kumar Singh, wrote to the Union Home Minister Amit Shah requesting security for Poonawalla.

In his letter, Singh talked about the threats that Poonawala had received from various groups over supplies of the institute's coronavirus vaccine.

Poonawalla, due to pressure exerted by vested interests, has already lowered the price of his vaccine from Rs 400 to Rs 300 per shot. 

SII will supply the vaccine at the rate of Rs 150 per dose to the union government for the first 100 million deliveries, and as per the union health ministry, these will be provided completely free of costs to the states.

The Supreme Court also jumped into the matter batting for "equity among the states when it comes to vaccine distribution”.

The court suggested compulsory licensing and that the government can consider procuring all the vaccines by itself and then de-centralising the distribution mechanism through the states.

‘’We cannot have a private sector model in a crisis of this magnitude. We have to follow the national immunisation model. Don’t leave it to the manufacturers. How can private manufacturers ensure equity,” said the apex court.

It also directed the union government to share details of the direct and indirect grants provided to the two vaccine manufacturers—Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech.

Poonawala’s interview is gaining attention on social media, and users blamed the misinformed and ideological campaigns run by political parties and media channels over free vaccines to have contributed to the pressure on the SII CEO.

 

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