Monday, May 20, 2024

India may get 100 million doses of Oxford vaccine shots by next month: Poonawalla

Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII) chief Adar Poonawalla on Friday said that India may get 100 million doses of Oxford vaccine shots for coronavirus at the latest by December.

He said Serum institute has so far made 40 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine in the past two months and aims to start manufacturing Novavax’s contender soon. Serum Institute has tied up with five developers.

Poonawalla, while answering in one interview said, if the final stage trial data from trails of the Oxford vaccine show promising results, then Serum Institute, which has partnered with AstraZeneca to produce at least one billion doses, could receive emergency authorization for the shot from New Delhi.

“We were a bit concerned it was a big risk,” Poonawalla remarked. But both AstraZeneca and Novavax’s shots “are looking pretty good.”

He further said that the initial amount will go to India, and added that full approval early next year will allow distribution on a 50-50 basis with the South Asian nation and Covax, the World Health Organization-backed body that’s purchasing shots for poor nations.

AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot said they are focusing on the large-scale vaccinations as early as December and are waiting for an emergency license from the United Kingdom.

Poonawalla said it will take until 2024 to vaccinate the entire world and two years to see the actual reduction in infections, due to affordability and manufacturing hurdles. However, he is confident in their plans to get initial vaccines to the vulnerable and frontline workers

According to Poonawalla, the major challenge will be making the vaccination available to the 1.3 billion population of India, especially in the vast countryside areas.

Talking about another vaccine contender, Pfizer, Poonawalla said AstraZeneca has an edge over Pfizer, which has indicated that it was more than 90% effective in preventing Covid-19, because of its expensive cold-storage infrastructure.

“I don’t think even 90% of the countries will be able to take it, because you just don’t have deep freezers everywhere,” he said of the Pfizer shot. “In a pandemic, always remember that simplicity is the key.”

India has already kept 500 billion rupees for vaccines aside but Poonawalla has argued that India would at least require 800 billion rupees.

Poonawalla is taking a big financial gamble. Operating in the low margin, mass volume world of vaccines, the Serum Institute currently supplies 170 nations with over a billion shots a year for diseases such as measles and mumps.

Poonawalla said they have invested around $300 million of the company’s money. With the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Gavi contributing $300 million, $200 million are still left to bridge the Serum’s planned expenditure

He also said that Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth funds wanted to help them with finances in return for the stakes in their company but I don’t need all of it right now, the capital we’ve deployed already is enough,” Poonawalla said, adding that advance orders recently signed with countries such as Bangladesh should fill the gap.

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