“We continue to expand manufacturing and prioritize India,” Managing Director Adar Poonawalla said Tuesday. “We also hope to start delivering to Covax and other countries by the end of this year,” he added, referring to the Global Multilateral Immunization Program.
Poonawalla said he was making the statement in response to an “intense discussion” over a decision to export vaccines earlier this year, which was followed by a sudden freeze on shipments imposed by the Prime Minister’s government. Narendra Modi in March as cases of the virus increased.
The CEO of the Serum Institute had previously said he hoped to resume exports in June, but only if the number of Covid-19 cases in India started to decline.
The group’s latest announcement is a blow to Covax, a WHO-backed global immunization program that aims to deliver 2 billion doses to developing countries by 2021. The crisis in India has already derailed immunization programs in countries that depend on Covax to supply serum. doses of the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine.
Strive Masiyiwa, the African Union’s special envoy on vaccines, said on Tuesday he was “beyond anger” with the Indian manufacturer. “We have met Serum three, four times. At the end, I said, “I don’t think we should do business with these guys. They are unreliable. We broke off negotiations after that ”.
He said he warned Covax in January “not to put all his eggs in one basket” and that he should spread the risk. “They said no, we know the Serum Institute and they are reliable.”
Poonawalla said on Tuesday: “We would like to reiterate that we have never exported vaccines to the detriment of the Indian people and that we remain committed to doing all we can to support the vaccination campaign in the country.”
India’s vaccination campaign has slowed, with clinics reporting vaccine shortages.
The country reported 4,329 deaths and 263,533 new Covid-19 infections on Tuesday, bringing the official death toll to 278,719. However, evidence suggests that the actual toll will likely be much higher as the virus spreads to rural areas where tests are low.
Despite being home to several pharmaceutical companies that have the expertise to produce vaccines on a large scale, India has failed to strengthen its manufacturing capacity.
In January, Modi proclaimed India was ready to “save humanity” with its vaccines after containing its coronavirus pandemic and began exporting to hone its diplomatic credentials.
By the time cases and deaths soared in April, only around 2% of India’s population had been fully immunized with two vaccines.
The UK government has said the move will have no impact on the rollout of vaccines in the country. “We have achieved rapid access to 517 million doses and remain on track to achieve our goal of providing every adult in the UK with a Covid-19 vaccine by the end of July,” a- he declared.
The UK was one of the biggest donors to Covax, providing £ 548million to help distribute 1.3 billion doses of coronavirus vaccine to 92 developing countries this year, a spokesperson added .
Additional reporting by Sarah Neville