Pune, 18th May 2021: Serum Institute of India (SII), which is producing the Covishield vaccine developed by the AstraZeneca-University of Oxford, has defended the Government of India over its criticism for exporting the vaccine. SII CEO Adar Poonawalla has issued a statement in this regard.
“We would like to reiterate that we have never exported vaccines at the cost of the people in India and remain committed to doing everything we can in support of the vaccination drive in the country. We have been working with the government tirelessly to do our best for humanity and will continue in the same spirit. This is the time for all of us to unite and work together to defeat the pandemic”, Poonawalla said.
“The Covid19 crisis has been difficult for people across the globe, including India. In the past few days, there has been intense discussion on the decision of our Government and Indian vaccine manufacturers including SII to export vaccines.
It is important that before we make conclusions, we consider a few important aspects of the events that have transpired —
• Firstly, in January 2021 we had a large stockpile of vaccine doses. Our vaccination drive had started successfully and the number of daily cases being recorded was at an all-time low. At that stage, most people including health experts believed that India was turning the tide on the pandemic.
• Around the same time, many other countries in the world were facing an acute crisis and were in desperate need of help. Our Government extended support wherever possible during this period. It is this spirit that had initially led to cooperation between countries when the virus first emerged in the beginning of 2020. The cooperation between countries also forms the basis for us getting access to technology and aid for healthcare. Today, it is this reciprocity, where India has helped other countries with the supply of HCQ and vaccine exports, that has in turn led to support from other countries.
• We must also understand that this pandemic is not limited by geographic or political boundaries. We will not be safe until everyone globally is able to defeat this virus. Further, as part of our global alliances, we also had commitments to COVAX, so that they could distribute the vaccines around the world to end the pandemic.
• Another important factor that people do not tend to realise is that we are amongst the two most populous countries in the world, a vaccination drive for such a large population cannot be completed within 2-3 months, as there are several factors and challenges involved. That said, it would take 2-3 years for the entire world population to get fully vaccinated.
• SII has delivered more than 200mn doses, even though we received EUA two months after the US pharma companies. If we look at total doses produced and delivered, we rank amongst the top three in the world. We continue to scale up manufacturing and prioritise India. We also hope to start delivering to COVAX and other countries by the end of this year”, the statement reads.