At a time when the whole world is eagerly awaiting good news to fight the Coronavirus, Serum Institute of India CEO Adar Poonawalla expressed doubt that there would not be enough Covid-19 vaccines available in the world till 2024 at the earliest.
According to a media report, Poonawalla said: “It’s going to take 4-5 years till everyone gets the vaccine on the planet,” he said, estimating that if Covid-19 shot is a two-dose vaccine, like measles or rotavirus, the world will need 15 billion doses.
Poonawalla’s comments come just a day after Union minister Harsha Vardhan said no date has been fixed on the availability of a potential Covid-19 vaccine.However, he hinted that the first shot of the vaccine could be readied by first quarter of 2021.
The Pune-based pharma giant has partnered with five international pharmaceutical firms, including AstraZeneca and Novavax, to develop a Covid-19 vaccine and committed to producing one billion doses, of which it promised half to India. Now, SII is likely to partner with Russia’s Gamaleya Research Institute to manufacture the Sputnik vaccine.
Poonawalla said that the SII commitment far exceeded the capacity of other vaccine producers. He assured the vaccine will be first made available to those who need it the most, irrespective of their paying capacity.“Issues like vaccine security, cost, equity, cold-chain requirements, production timelines etc., are also been discussed intensely,” the CEO said.
Meanwhile, the Union minister, to allay fears regarding the safety aspect of the vaccines, said, “I shall be the first to offer myself for receiving Covid vaccine, if people have a trust deficit.”
Furthermore, as part of SII’s agreement with AstraZeneca, it will aim to produce vaccine doses that cost around $3 for 68 countries and under its agreement with Novavax, for 92 countries.
Last week, AstraZeneca had paused its trials of Coronavirus vaccine after a volunteer developed an illness. The clinical trials had been put on hold in other countries including USA, UK, Brazil and South Africa. SII too paused the trials. However, by weekend the trials were resumed after the UK health regulatory authority gave its nod for going ahead.
Serum Institute of India is the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer by volume, producing 1.5 billion doses of vaccines annually for use in more than 170 countries to protect against many infectious diseases, such as polio, measles and influenza.