Pune: Serum Institute of India (SII) Chairman Dr Cyrus Poonawalla on Friday hailed the Modi government for cutting red-tapism, and recalled how the industry used to face “hardships” in securing permissions and “harassment from bureaucrats” 50 years ago. He also said that in the past, he had to “fall at the feet” of bureaucrats and drug controllers in order to get permissions, and added that the situation has changed now, which resulted in quick launch of SII’s COVID-19 vaccine – Covishield.Also Read - PM Modi, Mamata Banerjee, Adar Poonawalla on Time Magazine's 100 ‘Most Influential People of 2021
Poonawalla was speaking at an event where he received the Lokmanyat Tilak National Award instituted by the Lokmanya Tilak Trust in Pune, Maharashtra. Speaking to reporters afterwards, Poonawalla said that taking a third dose or ‘booster dose’ of Covishield, the coronavirus vaccine manufactured by his firm, was desirable. He also said he was not in favour of mixing two difference vaccines, and criticized the Union government for banning exports of vaccines. Also Read - Delhi Unlock Guidelines: Marriage Parties Allowed With 100 People | What’s Allowed, What’s Not
In favour of booster dose
“After six months, the antibodies go down and that is why I have taken the third dose. We have given the third dose to our seven to eight thousand SII employees. For those who have completed the second dose, it is my request to take a booster dose (third dose) after six months,” he said. The ideal gap between two doses of Covishield is two months though the Union government increased it to three months because of dose shortage, he said. Also Read - WHO's Approval For Bharat Biotech's Covaxin Likely This Week: Sources
Against mixing of vaccines
“I am against the mixing of two different vaccines. There is no need to mix two different vaccines,” Poonawalla said, when asked about a recent ICMR study that a cocktail of Covishield and Covaxin was found to have generated better immunity within a small group. If such combination of doses did not work, each vaccine manufacturer will blame the other company, he said. Later, in a statement to clarify his remarks, Poonawalla said such mixing can be resorted to if a particular vaccine is not available at the time of second dose.
No threat to Poonawalla family
He also dismissed reports about ‘threats’ to the Poonawalla family. His son Adar had left the country for a usual summer vacation, he claimed.
No company can provide 10-12 crore doses a month
Asked for his view on the government’s assurance to complete the vaccination in the entire country by the end of this year and the claim that 45 crore doses will be available by September, he said, “What do you think ? Politicians sometimes boast… “Our production of COVID-19 vaccine is 10 crore per month and producing that much quantity is not easy,” Poonawalla added. No company in the world can provide 10 to 12 crore doses in a month, he said. “However, with the advance preparations by SII and investments of thousands of crores, we can produce 110 to 120 crore doses per year. As other companies are also producing the vaccines, the immunization will increase,” he said.
Export ban very bad move
Poonawalla termed the Union government’s decision to ban the export of vaccines as a very bad move. “My son asked me not to open my mouth (on the issue). But it is my view that exports ought to be opened,” he said. Over 150 countries are dependent on the SII for vaccines and are blaming the company for stopping the supply during a crucial period, he said.
(Based on PTI inputs)