‘Getting All Support From Indian Govt’: SII CEO Amid Threats Row

Poonawalla’s remarks come following his explosive interview to The Times, in which he alleged he was threatened.

Updated
COVID-19
3 min read
File image of Serum Institute of India (SII) CEO Adar Poonawalla.
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The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on Monday, 3 May, refuted media reports alleging that the Centre has not placed fresh orders of COVID-19 vaccines, as India battles the second wave of the pandemic.

Serum Institute of India’s CEO, Adar Poonawalla, also corroborated the Centre’s statements on Monday, noting that he has received all kinds of support from Centre with regard to the manufacturing of vaccines.

This comes as hospitals have put out SOS calls citing lack of oxygen, and other healthcare facilities, as COVID cases in the country spike to unprecedented levels.

What Did the Health Ministry Say?

“There have been some media reports alleging that the Centre has not placed any fresh order for COVID-19 vaccines. The news reports suggest that the last order placed with the two vaccine makers (100 million doses with SII and 20 million doses with Bharat Biotech) was in March 2021,” said the Health Ministry.

“These media reports are completely incorrect, and are not based on facts,” it added.

“It is clarified that 100 percent advance of Rs 1732.50 crore (after TDS Rs 1699.50 crore) was released to Serum Institute of India (SII) on 28 April 2021 for 11 crore doses of Covishield vaccine during May, June and July, and was received by them on 28 April 2021. As on date, against the last order of 10 crore doses for supplies of Covishield vaccine, 8.744 crore doses have been delivered till 3 May 2021.”
Health Ministry

Speaking on Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin, the Health Ministry said, “Additionally, 100 percent advance of Rs 787.50 crore (after TDS Rs 772.50 crore) was released on 28 April 2021 to Bharat Biotech India Ltd (BBIL) for 5 crore Covaxin doses during May, June and July, and was received by them on 28 April 2021. As on date against the last order of 2 crore doses for supplies of Covaxin vaccine, 0.8813 crore doses have been delivered till 03 May 2021.”

The Centre has provided over 16.54 crore vaccines to the States and UTs free of cost, as per the health ministry statement on Monday.

It noted that states have over 78 lakh doses to be administered, and within the next three days, they would receive an additional 56 lakh doses.

“Under the Liberalised Pricing & Accelerated National COVID-19 Vaccination Strategy, Govt of India would continue to procure its share of 50 percent of the monthly Central Drugs Laboratory (CDL) cleared vaccines & would continue to make it available to the State Govts totally free of cost as was being done earlier,” said the health ministry.

What SII Said

Soon after this, SII took to Twitter to say that it endorsed the statement from the government as well as the authenticity of the information.

“We have been working closely with the Government of India for the past year and thank it for its support,” the tweet said.

Serum Institute of India CEO Poonawalla also supported the health ministry’s statement on Twitter, noting in a statement that some of his comments have been misinterpreted.

He stated that the manufacturing is a specialised process making it difficult to ramp up production overnight.

“We have been working closely with the Government of India since April last year. We have got all kinds of support, be it scientific, regulatory and financial,” said Poonawalla.

Poonawalla confirmed that SII has received the orders of over 26 crore doses, and adding that the firm has received a full advance of Rs 1732.5 crore from the Centre to supply the next order of 11 crore doses to states and private hospitals in the next few months.

“Lastly, we understand that everyone wants the vaccines to be available in the quickest possible time. This is our endeavour too and we are making every effort to achieve that,” Poonawalla said in his statement.

‘Head Would Be Chopped Off’

Poonawalla’s remarks come as his interview to The Times has stirred up a controversy. He alleged that he had been receiving threats in India and said that he and his family have left the country and were in London after unprecedented “pressure and aggression” over the demands for the COVID-19 vaccine.

“I’m staying here for an extended period because I don’t want to go back to that situation,” he said.

“I don’t want to be in a situation where you are trying to do your job and just because you can’t supply the needs of X, Y or Z, you really don’t want to guess what they are going to do,” he said, adding, “Everything falls on my shoulders, but I can’t do it alone.”
Adar Poonawalla

Poonawalla said that he was planning to begin production outside India and will return to India in a few days.

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