New Delhi: Increasing Covid-19 cases and the growing demand of vaccines across the country have led to a shortfall of vaccines in India. At least six states have confirmed to have a shortage of vaccines and at such a time, the largest vaccine manufacturer in India, the Serum Institute of India (SII) has said that their manufacturing capacity is “stressed”.
Adar Poonawalla, CEO of the Serum Institute of India, has sought financial assistance of about Rs 3,000 crore from the government as a grant to scale up manufacturing of the vaccine in the Institute’s manufacturing unit in Pune.
In an interview to a leading news channel in India, Poonawalla had this week said, “We roughly need about Rs 3,000 crore as a grant from the government to scale up our manufacturing of vaccine. This, we are looking for as a grant and not a loan from the government. We understand that the amount is not a small figure, but considering that we have already spent thousands of crores into manufacturing the vaccine, we need to find other innovative ways to build our capacity for vaccine manufacturing at this time.”
The SII is manufacturing the Covishield vaccine for India. It is the same vaccine that was developed by the Oxford University and pharma giant AstraZeneca.
Almost 90% of the vaccination against Covid-19 in India is being done using the SII’s Covishield vaccine which is a two-dose vaccine taking in an interval of 24 to 28 days.
Currently, SII is producing about 50-60 million doses of Covishield vaccine per month on an average and till the end of March, according to approximate figures, the SII has produced about 270 million doses of vaccine.
However, in November and Dec. last year, Poonawalla had said that his company has the capacity to manufacture 100 million doses per month by March this year.But, according to data available, the SII has been able to produce about 60 million doses of vaccine per month.
Even in the early weeks of March this year, the SII had said that they are confident that they will be able to reach the 100 million dose target by end of March and that they are ramping up their manufacturing capacities to reach the 100 million doses per month target, but the Institute had earlier this week said that they would require time till May this year to reach that production scale.
The SII had also witnessed a fire incident in its campus in January this year which claimed five lives. Chairman of SII, Cyrus Poonawalla, had said that the fire incident was unfortunate, and it had destroyed a few floors of the building. However, he had then assured that this would not affect the vaccine manufacturing capacity of the firm.
Poonawalla has also said that the shortage of raw materials from the lack of supply of the raw materials needed for the manufacturing of vaccines from the United States, has also contributed to the slowing down of the vaccine manufacturing in India.
The Sunday Guardian reached out to the CEO of SII, Adar Poonawalla, through his email ID. The newspaper has also sent him a detailed questionnaire, seeking response on the firm’s manufacturing capabilities and reasons behind the delay in rolling out doses of the vaccine. However, The Sunday Guardian did not receive any response till the time of going to the press. India has so far administered more than 94 million doses of vaccine in the country. India is currently using two vaccines, SII’s Covishield and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin, in its inoculation drive, with over 90% of the population being administered the Covishield vaccine.