Serum Institute India, the manufacturer of coronavirus vaccine Covishield, is set to invest 240 million pounds (over Rs 24,000 crore) in the United Kingdom, AFP reported on Tuesday, quoting British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office.
The project would include a sales office and “clinical trials, research and development and possibly manufacturing of vaccines”, according to AFP.
The development comes days after Poonawalla in an interview to The Times said that he flew to London in April-end from India because he was being threatened. The vaccine maker chief had said he was planning to start production in other countries amid struggles to meet supply commitments. Hours later, Poonawalla tweeted saying he will be returning to India. The Serum Institute chief also said that he held a meeting with the company’s “partners and stakeholders in the UK”.
In another interview to the The Financial Times, Poonawalla said that he was not in London over safety concerns but for normal business. In the interview, he also warned that the vaccine shortage in India will last till July since his company had not boosted the production capacity because “there were no orders”.
Following his comment, the Indian government refuted reports that it has not placed any new order for coronavirus vaccines despite the devastating second wave of the pandemic. Later, the Serum Institute and Poonawalla tweeted endorsing the government’s claim.
Meanwhile, Johnson’s office, in its statement, added that Serum Institute’s plans were part of a wider package of trade and investment deals with India worth $1 billion that expects to create over 6,500 jobs. The announcement was made ahead of virtual talks between Johnson and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday.
Several states in India have postponed the rollout of the third phase of inoculation for those between 18 and 44 years as they have run out of vaccines, exacerbating a second wave of the pandemic. Vaccination centres across the country have largely said that they have no slots available for the newly added beneficiaries and are still giving the shots only to those are 45 and above.
On Tuesday, India reported 3,57,229 new coronavirus cases, taking the tally in the country to 2,02,82,833 since the pandemic broke out in January 2020. This is the third consecutive day when the daily infection count dropped after crossing the 4-lakh mark. The toll climbed by 3,449 to 2,22,408.