Adar Poonawalla, CEO, Serum Institute of India (SII) has said that vaccine nationalism in countries, including the US and India is likely to derail efforts to deliver 2 billion doses to poorer and middle-income nations.
In an interview with a global news wire, Poonawalla said countries are holding tight to their supplies and restricting access to materials needed to make more.
Indian officials have also requested more vaccines than initially expected from the company, Poonawalla was quoted as saying.
“We had to dedicate a lot of our capacity, which was not originally planned for India,” he said. “We’re trying to balance it out as much as possible, but again for the first few months we have been directed to prioritise supplies to India and certain other countries that have a high disease burden.”
The company is responsible for providing more than half of the shots used so far in the WHO-backed Covax program that aims to provide equitable vaccine access across the world.
Poonawalla said it will take two to three months for shipments to Covax to really pick up, and reaching the 2021 target of 2 billion doses will be challenging, he said, predicting it will “spill over by a few months”.
In an earlier tweet in February, Poonwalla had said SII has been asked to prioritise the huge needs of India and had asked “countries and governments” to be patient.
“Dear countries & governments, as you await #COVISHIELD supplies, I humbly request you to please be patient, @SerumInstIndia has been directed to prioritise the huge needs of India and along with that balance the needs of the rest of the world. We are trying our best,” he said in the tweet.
He had also assured Canada of vaccine delivery. “Dear Hon’ble PM @JustinTrudeau, I thank you for your warm words towards India and it’s vaccine industry. As we await regulatory approvals from Canada, I assure you, @SerumInstIndia will fly out #COVISHIELD to Canada in less than a month; I’m on it!”