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CNBC TV18's IBLA 2022: SII CEO Adar Poonawalla gets award for 'Outstanding Business Leader of the Year'

Serum Institute of India invested in Covishield -- the India-manufactured version of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID-19 -- on an "at-risk" basis in March 2020, created regulatory hurdles and released the vaccine in a matter of nine months.

April 01, 2022 / 07:35 PM IST
SII CEO Adar Poonawalla. | Illustration: MoneyControl

SII CEO Adar Poonawalla. | Illustration: MoneyControl

Adar Poonawalla, who emerged as the face of India's vaccine manufacturing prowess in the drive against COVID-19, was on March 31 conferred the award for Outstanding Business Leader of the Year at CNBC-TV18's India Business Leaders Awards (IBLA) 2022.

Serum Institute of India (SII), under Poonawalla’s leadership, played a key role in India's vaccination drive against COVID-19, and also supplied the jabs to countries around the world.

"As chairman of Serum Institute of India, the world's largest vaccine maker, Adar Poonawalla has been at the forefront of expanding Serum's global footprint to 140 countries...Nearly 90% of the total supplies of COVID-19 vaccine in India are from Serum’s stable. He has been instrumental in getting new products licensed and pre-qualified by WHO," read a note issued by the award organisers.

The jury of IBLA 2022 took note of SII investing in Covishield -- the India-manufactured version of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine -- on an "at-risk" basis in March 2020, when coronavirus was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

In around nine months, Covishield cleared regulatory hurdles and was successfully released in the Indian market for mass inoculation. Over 1.25 billion doses of the vaccine have been produced in India since the approval was granted, the jury pointed out.

COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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The jury also considered the fact that SII, with Poonawalla acting as the key decision-maker, not only supplied vaccines to the Indian government but also to low- and middle-income countries globally under WHO's COVAX framework.

Apart from Covishield, Serum Institute has also received approval for producing Covovax, the made-in-India version of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by American biotechnology firm Novavax.

Poonawalla has also been lauded by the health fraternity because SII's crucial supplies of polio and measles vaccines to low- and middle-income countries did not stop despite the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Pune-based company, in this period, also expanded its focus on programmes aimed at developing vaccines against the papillomavirus, the IBLA jury members noted.

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