The Serum Institute of India (SII) CEO Adar Poonawalla, in an interview to Financial Times, warned that the paucity of COVID-19 vaccines will continue for months. Further, Poonawalla appeared to pin the responsibility for the same on to the Indian government.
This warning by Poonawalla comes amid a terrifying surge of COVID-19 cases that has resulted in the crumbling of healthcare infrastructure in many parts of the country, an oxygen-crisis in the national capital, an acute dearth of life-saving resources, and widespread devastation.
Poonawalla, as per the interview published on Sunday, 2 May, in Financial Times, said that back in January, authorities did not expect to be confronted with the second wave at all.
“Everybody really felt that India had started to turn the tide on the pandemic,” he said
However, that wasn’t to be and the country soon witnessed a shocking spike in COVID-19 cases.
Meanwhile, Poonawalla, in the interview, informed that the severe vaccine shortage would continue through July, when finally the production will rise from 60m - 70m doses a month to 100m.
‘I’ve Been Victimised Wrongly, There Were No Orders!’: Poonawalla to FT
Poonawalla further alleged that SII had been slandered by politicians and critics over the paucity of vaccines, even though it was the government and not the company, responsible for the policy that led to it.
“I’ve been victimised very unfairly and wrongly,” Poonawalla told SII and added that he had not boosted capacity earlier because “there were no orders, we did not think we needed to make more than 1bn doses a year”.
As per Financial Times, the Centre ordered 21 million vaccines from Serum Institute by the end of February, but gave no inkling of when it would ask for more.
Another 110 m doses were ordered in March, amid a rise in COVID-19 cases.
Referring to the government advancing a loan to the company in April, in a bid to secure more vaccines, Poonawalla said: “We have just done this right now to address the ridiculous shortage that the nation, and obviously the world even, has.”
‘Have Been Working Closely With the Govt’: Poonawalla Says a Day Later
On Monday, 3 May, however, Poonawalla appeared on the government’s side as the Centre refuted media reports alleging that the Centre has not placed fresh orders of COVID-19 vaccines.
When the Health Ministry dubbed news reports suggesting that the last order placed with the two vaccine makers was in March as “completely inaccurate”, Poonawalla corroborated the government’s claim.
However, while corroborating the government’s assertion, Poonawalla also said:
"“We have been working closely with the Government of India for the past year and thank it for its support.” "
Further, in a tweet Poonawalla stated that “as of today (3 May), we received total orders of 26 crore doses, of which we supplied more than 15 crore doses. We have also got 100% advance of Rs 1,732.50 crore by the government of India for the next tranche of 11 crore doses in the next few months. Another 11 crore doses would be supplied to the second channel for states and private hospitals in the next few months.”
Two Percent Vaccinated, Too Many COVID Cases
So far, India has vaccinated less than two percent of the population, with many states reporting that they have run out of vaccines.
Meanwhile, India on Tuesday, 4 May, reported 3,57,229 new coronavirus cases, taking the tally in the country to over 2 crore.
The death toll increased by 3,449 to 2,22,408.
According to the Union Health Ministry data, there are currently 34,47,133 active cases across the country, while 1,66,13,292 patients have been discharged so far, with 3,20,289 discharges reported in the last 24 hours.
(With inputs from Financial Times.)
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