Poonawalla defends India’s vaccine diplomacy

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Says SII has delivered more than 200 million doses, even though it received Emergency Use Authorisation two months after US pharma companies did, reports Asian Lite News

Serum Institute of India (SII) CEO Adar Poonawalla has said he never exported vaccines at the cost of Indians.

Defending the move to export vaccines earlier this year, he said, “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.”

“We would like to reiterate that we have never exported vaccines at the cost of the people in India and remain committed to do everything we can in the support of the vaccination drive in the country,” Poonawalla said.

The statement comes amidst criticism to export vaccines, which, some say led to a shortage in India.

“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 were at an all-time low. At that stage, most people including health experts believed that India was turning the tide on the pandemic,” he added.

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,” he added.

Poonawalla said, “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.”

He said SII has delivered more than 200 million doses, even though it received Emergency Use Authorisation (EUA) two months after 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 end of this year,” he added.

India tops the list

According to the Ministry of External Affairs, India has supplied 66 million doses to over 95 countries across the world. Of this 10 million vaccines were grants from the Indian government and 20 million were sent as part of the global Covax facility. The rest 36 million doses were commercial exports. Meanwhile, China has exported 80 million vaccines doses to 60 countries. The European Union on the other hand has exported 113.5 million vaccine doses to 43 countries. In April, India was the fastest country in the world to give more than 100 million jabs to its citizens, the feat was achieved in just 85 days time.

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