Serum Institute of India Chief Executive Officer Adar Poonawalla on Friday requested United States President Joe Biden to lift the embargo on raw material exports to help in ramping up the production of coronavirus vaccines.
The Serum Institute is currently manufacturing Covishield, the Covid-19 vaccine developed by pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca and Oxford University. The vaccine is being used in India as well as supplied to other countries.
The US had imposed the export ban in February, reported NDTV. It had invoked the Defense Production Act which gives the US administration the powers to control the distribution of products for a “short term”. This was done to boost supplies needed to make Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccines.
Poonawalla’s comment came at a time when India is tackling the second coronavirus wave. India on Friday reported 2,17,353 new coronavirus cases, taking its tally to 1,42,91,917. This is the highest figure recorded so far since the pandemic began in January 2020. The toll increased to 1,74,308 with 1,185 deaths, the highest since September 19.
In March, the Serum Institute chief and World Health Organization chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan had warned of a shortage in raw materials needed to manufacture coronavirus vaccines. Poonawalla had told a World Bank panel that the Defense Production Act, blocking the export of certain items, including bags and filters, could cause serious hindrance in the production.
He said that a discussion was needed with the Biden administration to explain to them that there was enough material to go around. “We are talking about having free global access to vaccines but if we can’t get the raw materials out of the US – that’s going to be a serious limiting factor.”
In April, Poonawalla had said that his company’s existing capacity to manufacture coronavirus vaccine Covishield was “very stressed” and it required Rs 3,000 crore to increase production by June. He had also said that AstraZeneca has served a legal notice to Serum Institute for delays in supplying the vaccine.