The Indian government on Monday refuted reports that claimed that it has not placed any new order for coronavirus vaccines despite the devastating second wave of the pandemic. It called such reports “incorrect and not based on facts”.
This came a day after Serum Institute chief Adar Poonawalla warned in an interview to The Financial Times that the vaccine shortage in India will last till July since his company had not boosted the production capacity because “there were no orders”. Poonawalla claimed that his company had been maligned and “victimised very unfairly” for the shortage. He had added that the government, and not his company, was responsible for the policy decisions.
Other reports had also said that the Narendra Modi government has not yet placed fresh orders with Serum Institute and Bharat Biotech.
But, the health ministry said that the Centre had paid Rs 1,732.50 crore to the Serum Institute on April 28 for 11 crore doses of Covishield vaccine for the months of May, June and July. The amount, which after tax deduction at source was Rs 1,699.50 crore, was received by Poonawalla’s company on April 28 itself, it added.
Till May 3, the Serum Institute had delivered 8,744 crore Covishield doses as part of the previous order of 10 crore doses, the government added.
Similarly, the Indian government had released Rs 787.50 crore, which after tax deduction at source was Rs 772.50 crore, to the Bharat Biotech on April 28 for five crore Covaxin doses for May, June and July. The amount was received by the firm on April 28.
Misinterpreted, claims Poonawalla
After the Centre’s clarification, the Serum Institute put out a tweet endorsing the statement. “We have been working closely with the government of India for the past year and thank it for its support,” it said. “We remain committed to ramping up our vaccine production to save every life we can.”
Poonawalla also claimed that his comments about vaccine production “may have been misinterpreted”, ANI reported. Stating that vaccine manufacturing was a specialised process, he said that it cannot be increased overnight.
“We also need to understand that the population of India is huge and to produce enough doses for all adults is not an easy task,” the statement said. “Even the most advanced companies are struggling in relatively smaller population.”
Poonawalla said he has received total orders of over 26 crore doses as of Monday, out of which the company has supplied more than 15 crore doses.
In his interview to The Financial Times, Poonawalla had said that he was in London not due to safety concerns but for business.
But in an interview with The Times newspaper, which was published on May 1, he claimed that tycoons and politicians were threatening him in order to secure vaccines because of which he left for the United Kingdom before it banned travellers from India.
He has since then indicated he will return to India within a few days.