Serum Institute CEO Adar Poonawala said that India may face a vaccine shortage for the next few months. He said that the capacity to manufacture 100 million vaccines is not going to increase before July. Let me tell you that 6 to 7 crore vaccines are also being produced.
In an interview to the Financial Times, he said that he had not expanded capacity earlier due to lack of orders. For this reason, the scarcity of the vaccine will continue till July. He said, “There was no order. We didn’t think we needed to make more than 100 crore doses in a year.” He also said that officials did not expect a second wave in January. He continued, “Everyone really felt that the epidemic in India was on the verge of ending.”
Last month, the central government gave Rs 3,000 crore advance to the Serum Institute to facilitate capacity expansion. New cases crossed 400,000 for the first time in India on Friday.
Serum Institute, the world’s largest vaccine-making company, makes the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which is locally distributed under the brand name Covishield. The central government has bought the entire production so far, but earlier this month states and private hospitals have also been allowed to purchase the vaccine.
The government has launched a vaccination campaign for all people above 18 years of age from 1 May. However, due to the lack of vaccines, it may not be effectively introduced at the moment. On May 1, only 18 lakh people were vaccinated. Let me tell you that about 16 crore people have been vaccinated in India so far. It is just 12 percent of the country’s population. However, the number of people taking the second dose is quite small. It is just two percent.
Poonawala said that politicians and critics blamed SII for the lack of vaccines, but the vaccine policy was made by the government.
Let us tell you that the vaccination campaign started in India on 16 January. The central government initially ordered 2.1 crore vaccines from SII. In March, when the cases started escalating, an additional 11 crore doses were ordered. The company has also been criticized for charging higher prices from states and private hospitals for an expanded vaccination campaign. The serum later reduced the price paid by the state governments from Rs 400 to Rs 300.