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COVID-19: Will prioritise India's vaccine needs for next few months, says SII CEO Adar Poonawalla

Adar Poonawalla said that the Serum Institute of India has already delivered over 100 million doses to the government and is currently producing 65-70 million doses per month.

April 07, 2021 / 07:27 AM IST
Serum Institute India's (SII) CEO Aadar Poonawalla has said that for the next one or two months, India's need for vaccines will be prioritized over exports.

Serum Institute India's (SII) CEO Aadar Poonawalla has said that for the next one or two months, India's need for vaccines will be prioritized over exports.

Serum Institute India's (SII) CEO Adar Poonawalla has said that for the next one or two months, India's need for vaccines will be prioritized over exports. Speaking to CNBC-TV 18, the CEO said that he hopes to increase vaccine manufacturing capacity by June to meet the increasing demand.

"Speed of vaccination in India is phenomenal and we have asked the government for financial assistance to ramp up vaccine capacity," he said.

Serum Institute of India is manufacturing Oxford-Astra Zeneca's Covishield, which is being administered in the ongoing vaccination drive. Poonawalla mentioned that SII has already delivered more than 100 million doses to the government and is currently producing 65-70 million doses per month.

Adar Poonawalla also mentioned that SII's plan to produce 100 million doses per month, has now been pushed back by 2 months, because of the fire that took place in January 2021.

When asked about the possible side effects of blood clots being linked to Astra Zeneca's vaccine, Poonawalla said, "I am sure that the links between AstraZeneca vaccine & blood clots will be discounted. There are no safety issues seen in India and statistical analysis is needed to draw conclusions".

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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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He also mentioned that according to studies one shot of Covishield prevents hospitalisation in 94% of cases and that till now there has been no need for a booster or 3rd dose of vaccine in case of Covishield. He also said that the efficacy of the vaccine becomes better with a longer gap between vaccines.

On being asked if there's any possibility of Russia's Sputnik V being manufactured Poonawalla said,  "we are discussing with RDIF on collaboration for manufacturing Sputnik V," although nothing is concrete yet.

Poonawalla also said that SII is also hopeful of launching Covovax - developed in partnership with American vaccine developer Novavax - by September this year.

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