In his first comments since he was provided with Y’ category security by the Indian government, Poonawalla told The Times’ in an interview about receiving aggressive calls from some of the most powerful people in India, demanding supplies of Covishield — the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine that the Serum Institute is producing in India.
I’m staying here (London) for an extended time because I don’t want to go back to that situation. Everything falls on my shoulders but I can’t do it alone…I don’t want to be in a situation where you are just trying to do your job, and just because you can’t supply the needs of X, Y or Z you really don’t want to guess what they are going to do, Poonawalla told the newspaper. The businessman indicated in the interview that his move to London is also linked to business plans to expand vaccine manufacturing to countries outside India, which may include the likes of the UK.
According to the newspaper, by the time the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine was approved in January this year, the Serum Institute of India (SII) had increased its annual production capacity from 1.5 to 2.5 billion doses at a cost of USD 800 million, and stockpiled 50 million doses of Covishield.
The company began exporting to 68 countries, including Britain, as India seemed to have been over the worse, until the situation worsened in recent weeks.
On the charge of profiteering as the cost of Covishield was recently hiked, he termed it as totally incorrect and added that Covishield will still be the most affordable vaccine on the planet even at a higher price.
We have done the best we can without cutting corners or doing anything wrong or profiteering. I’ll wait for history to judge, he said.
I’ve always had this sense of responsibility to India and the world because of the vaccines we were making, but never have we made a vaccine so needed in terms of saving lives, he added.