News Desk,8 April (Sky News Bureau)
AstraZeneca legal notice : AstraZeneca has presented Adar Poonawalla’s Serum Institute of India (SII), the manufacturer of the coronavirus vaccine Covishield, with a legal notice over vaccine supply delays.
“Astrazeneca has sent us a legal notice (for delays in supplying the vaccine) and the Indian government is also aware of that. I cannot comment on the legal notice as it is confidential, but we are examining all avenues to amicably manage and resolve legal disputes over contractual obligations that Serum Institute is not able to fulfil due to its prioritisation of Indian supplies.”
“Everyone has been very understanding so far. The government is evaluating what it can do to resolve the issue,” Poonawalla told a leading newspaper in an interview.
Poonawalla had stated that Serum’s production capacity to manufacture Covi shield – one of the two vaccines being administered in India – is “very stressed to put it frankly”, amid pressure from soaring cases in the country.
He also said the government’s halt on big Covishield exports to other countries, as well as the “first claim” agreement with India, is difficult to justify in other countries. where the vaccine was sold at a much higher price per dose.
“The globe needs this vaccine and we are prioritising the needs of India at the moment and we are still short of being able to supply… to every Indian that needs it,” Poonawalla said in the interview.
Poonawalla said Serum Institute, which produces between 60 and 65 million doses per month, has so far delivered around 100 million doses to the centre and exported 60 million.
SII needed ₹ 3,000 crore to ramp up capacity needed to scale up production by June, he said.
Serum produces over two million doses of Covishield — the name in India for the AstraZeneca vaccine — a day. It is providing the shot at a subsidized rate of around ₹ 150 to the government, significantly less than what it charges for exports.
“This (the amount needed) would be roughly ₹3,000 crores. The process takes 85 days, so it would be just under three months before we scale up operations,” he said, adding that he had written to the government, failing which Serum Institute would approach banks for a loan.
“This was never budgeted or planned initially because we were supposed to export and get the funding from export countries but now that that is not happening, we have to find other innovative ways to build our capacity.”