The CEO of the Indian pharmaceutical giant that dozens of countries have to supply them with vaccines against the coronavirus said that your deliveries could be delayed because it had been “instructed” to meet national needs before export orders.
“Dear countries and governments,” wrote the executive, Adar Poonawalla, of the Serum Institute of India, in a tweet warning of the delays. “I humbly ask you to be patient “he wrote, adding that his company had been instructed to prioritize “the enormous needs of India and, along with it, harmonize the needs of the rest of the world. We are doing everything possible.”
He did not say who had issued the directive, and the Serum Institute did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
India produces three fifths of the world’s supply of all types of vaccines, and the country’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, has launched one of the largest and most ambitious vaccination campaigns in the world with the aim of inoculating the 1.3 billion people of India.
But while the country already has a massive immunization program, administering some 390 million vaccines against diseases like measles and tuberculosis in an average year, India has difficulties in getting COVID vaccines to the population. Less than 1% of Indians have been inoculated since mid-January. The pandemic has so far caused at least 10.9 million known coronavirus infections, more than in any other nation except the United States.
The country’s regulatory bodies have approved two vaccines: one developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford and produced by the Serum Institute, and another – still in trials – developed by the National Institute of Virology with Bharat Biotech, a local pharmaceutical company that will manufacture the doses.
The Serum Institute will also develop doses of a vaccine developed by Novovax once it is approved.
In addition to helping supply India and other customers, the company is expected to produce hundreds of millions doses of AstraZeneca vaccine and more than 1 billion Novovax vaccines to be distributed through the COVAX global vaccination initiative, which aims to ensure that 92 low- and middle-income countries receive vaccines at the same time as 98 richest countries in the world. COVAX did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the Poonawalla alert that other countries would have to wait to receive the vaccines.
Many developing countries want the AstraZeneca vaccine because it is much less expensive and much easier to store and transport than other COVID vaccines in use today. This also makes it suitable for India’s extensive vaccination campaign, which must reach from the towering mountains of the Himalayas to the dense jungles of the south of the country.
The Indian government has increasingly used the country’s vaccine manufacturing capacity as bargaining chip for your international diplomacyin competition with China, which has made vaccine distribution a central element of its foreign relations. Last week, for example, India pledged to donate 200,000 doses of vaccines to United Nations peacekeepers around the world.
Sameer Yasir. The New York Times