Yuva - India

Negativity surrounding the Serum Institute of India

The Serum Institute of India, located in Pune was founded in the year 1966 by Cyrus Poonawalla. It was founded with the aim of manufacturing life-saving immune-biologicals manufactured at affordable prices to the common man and in abundance. Before this company was founded, such vaccines were in shortage in the country and imported at high prices which were not affordable to the common man.

Serum Institute of India is the world’s largest vaccine producer to manufacture several doses and sold globally which accounts for over 1.5 billion doses of various vaccines including Polio vaccine such as Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis, Hib, BCG, r-Hepatitis B, Measles, Mumps and Rubell vaccine. About 65% of the children in the world receive at least one vaccine manufactured by Serum Institute.

Vaccines manufactured by Serum Institute of India are accredited by the World Health Organization, Geneva, and are being used in 170 countries across the world, saving millions of lives each year.

When the Wuhan virus also known as the COVID-19 virus pandemic hit the entire globe in the year 2020, many companies started developing their vaccines. Serum Institute of India, in collaboration with AstraZeneca, developed vaccines which are called Covishield to counter the Covid-19 virus. Covishield vaccine is approved for people 18 years of age and above. The vaccine comprises a two-dose routine and shows the efficacy of around 70%, but can be over 90% when administered as a half dose followed by a full dose a month later.

As India began its vaccination drive in January this year, Covishield and Covaxin were the two main vaccines that were administered to the people. Initially, the frontline workers got the jabs, and later people 45 years of age and above were eligible to get vaccinated. The government of India announced a liberalized and accelerated vaccination drive as a part of Phase-3, all across the country where people of age 18 years and above became eligible for the vaccine from May 1st, 2021. This drive ensured that a maximum number of people get vaccinated as quickly as possible.

Amidst all these steps taken by the government of India, Adar Poonawalla, CEO of Serum Institute of India hinted he is planning to start the vaccine production in other countries as it struggled to meet the supply commitments. In an interview with Times Now, Adar Poonawalla made certain revelations stating that Britain could be one of the countries where SII could start its vaccine manufacture outside India. Poonawalla also said that he was planning on increasing the vaccine manufacturing capacity to 100 million doses by July this year, which was earlier planned to be by May end.

Adar Poonawalla flew to London as he revealed he has been receiving threat calls from powerful people demanding urgent supplies of Covishield. He said that he received aggressive calls from powerful men in India and various other influential groups of people demanding him of providing them with the Covishield vaccine before others receive it. Due to the threats, he received, the union ministry announced that Adar Poonawalla is given Y category security cover which comprises 11 personnel, one or two commandoes, and police personnel.

On May 1st, 2021, Adar Poonawalla took to twitter to update everyone with the latest development about the meeting he had with the stakeholders in the UK and the production of Covishield. His Tweet read, “Had an excellent meeting with all our partners and stakeholders in the U.K. Meanwhile, pleased to state that Covishield’s production is in full swing in Pune. I look forward to reviewing my operations upon my return in a few days.”

Adar Poonawalla was also being attacked on social media by many people including the senior Congress Leader Rahul Gandhi for the prices of the vaccine and accusing him of profiteering as he is supposedly PM Modi’s friend. Serum Institute of India had announced the prices of the vaccine in an official media statement with an affordable price of Rs. 400 per dose for the state government and Rs. 600 per dose for private hospitals.

Following the outrage, Adar Poonawalla further reduced the price of the vaccine from Rs. 400 to Rs. 300 per dose which is amongst the lowest in the world. His Tweet read, “As a philanthropic gesture on behalf of @SerumInstIndia, I hereby reduce the price to the states from Rs.400 to Rs.300 per dose, effective immediately; this will save thousands of crores of state funds going forward. This will enable more vaccinations and save countless lives.”

His tweet stated that reducing the price of the vaccine will ensure more people get the jab saving countless lives.

On May 3rd, 2021, Adar Poonawalla tweeted that amongst multiple reports, it was important to clear the air and share the correct information with the public. He emphasized the fact that manufacturing of vaccines is a specialized process; it is therefore not a simple task to ramp up the production overnight, and that even the most advanced countries and companies are struggling. He also stated that Serum Institute of India has been working along with the Government of India since April last year and they have received an order of 26 crore doses out of which SII has supplied over 15 crore doses. SII also received a 100% advance of Rs. 1732.50 crore by the Government of India for the next tranche of 11 crore doses. He also mentioned that SII has been making every effort to achieve the goal of vaccines reaching everyone as quickly as possible and that they shall work harder to strengthen India’s fight against Covid-19.

People demanding vaccines free of cost should understand one important thing that Adar Poonawalla has risked multi-crore investment for the making of the vaccine. His company has come up with a vaccine which is available at affordable prices and its efficacy is around 70%. Due to outrage, he even reduced the price of the vaccine by 25% which is no less than a philanthropic gesture.

Mugdha Joglekar

Intern, Goa Chronicle

DISCLAIMER: This article reflects author’s view point. Goa Chronicle may or may not subscribe to views of the author

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