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Never Exported Vaccines at the Cost of People in India: SII CEO

The statement comes amid a shortage of vaccines across India, for which the Centre has faced flak.

Updated
India
2 min read
Serum Institute of India (SII) CEO Adar Poonawalla
i

Amid the shortage of COVID-19 vaccine doses across the country, Serum Institute of India's CEO Adar Poonawalla on Tuesday, 18 May, said, “We have never exported vaccines at the cost of the people in India and remain committed to do 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," a media statement by the company read.

Poonawalla asserted that the company is continuing to scale up manufacturing and prioritise India, and that it hopes to start delivering to COVAX and various countries by the end of 2021.

‘Vaccination Drive for Such a Large Population Can’t be Completed in 2-3 Months’

Responding to the discussion on the decision of the Centre and the Indian vaccine manufacturers to export vaccines, Poonawalla pointed out “a few important aspects of the events that have transpired”.

Citing the existence of a large stock of vaccine doses in January 2021, the Serum Institute CEO said the inoculation drive had "started successfully" when cases in India were at an all-time low.

"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... 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," the statement read.

SII also had commitments to COVAX, Poonawalla added, while pointing out that it would take two-three years for the entire population of the world to get fully vaccinated.

“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 two-three months, as there are several factors and challenges involved.”
Adar Poonawalla, CEO, SII
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Criticism Over Vaccine Export

The statement comes at a time when the Centre is being criticised for exporting vaccines while not being able to secure enough doses for the country.

India has been able to administer 18.4 crore vaccine doses since its inoculation drive started on 16 January. Even though it opened vaccination for all adults from 1 May, the drive has failed to pick up momentum with several states flagging shortage of doses.

The country has been facing a devastating second wave of the pandemic since March, with a shortage of hospital beds, medical oxygen and medicines reported across the country.

On Tuesday, the country reported 2,63,533 new COVID cases and 4,329 deaths.

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