India’s largest vaccine manufacturer Serum Institute’s Chief Executive Officer Adar Poonawalla clearly is under tremendous pressure as the country currently is witnessing a catastrophic situation due to massive spread of COVID infection and death. International media has been claiming, Indian government is “under-numbering” the actual death toll. Meanwhile, sitting in London’s luxurious house, Poonawalla told media his firm has “never exported vaccines at the cost of the people of India”. India’s vaccination drive, he said, cannot be completed in two or three months given the huge population. It is Important to “stay united to fight the pandemic”, read his statement in which he also pointed out that India is now receiving support from nations where vaccines, medicines were exported.
In the statement, Poonawalla also explained the circumstances in which consignments of vaccines were sent abroad and the commitments made by the government in the initial stages of the pandemic last year.
When the vaccines were launched in January, there was a stockpile in India. The COVID numbers were at an “all-time low” and the vaccination drive had started successfully, he said.
At the same time, many other nations were in an “acute crisis” and in “desperate need of help”. The government, he said, extended whatever help was possible.
Pointing out that the pandemic will “not be limited by geographical or political boundaries,” he said “we will not be safe till everyone has been able to defeat the virus on a global scale”.
It may be mentioned here that, Serum Institute received significant amount of cash in advance from several countries, including Bangladesh with specific commitment of supplying vaccine. But they have already failed to keep promise with Bangladesh, which has compelled Dhaka in looking for alternative sources in China and Russia.
Serum Institute says, it may not have the ability of supplying the promised quantity of vaccines to foreign buyer before October this year. Such decision of Serum has already put a number of foreign nations into serious challenge.
Commenting on Serum Institute’s signing of sales agreement and receiving cash in advance from foreign nations, an expert said, the company should have known, it was their responsibility of meeting the domestic demand of vaccines in India before signing agreement with foreign buyers. Moreover, as per international business laws, for Serum respecting their agreement with the foreign buyers is mandatory, failing which would put them into serious legal consequences internationally.
Adar Poonawalla’s latest media statement comes amid much opposition criticism of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government over the vaccine shortage. According to NDTV, many states, including Delhi have been unable to continue vaccination of all eligible age groups due to the shortage.
Meanwhile, critics are saying, while Adar Poonawalla has visible fled India at his failure in supplying the required volume of vaccine, it is also understood that Serum Institute has not stopped the production, which means, there should have been continuation of supply of vaccines in the country.
They also are saying, Adar Poonawalla or Serum must have signed agreements with foreign buyers after assessing their capability of meeting the domestic demand as well as keeping commitments to the foreign buyers. The vaccination process began months before India has started witnessing an alarming rise in the number of new cases and deaths. Serum’s failure has nothing to do with the current rise in the number of new cases or deaths, as they were supposed to supply the required volume of vaccines to get the entire nation vaccinated by December this year. Moreover, Serum also must have done the due diligence about their production capacity before signing agreement with the foreign buyers and receive large amount of cash in advance. What Serum or Adar Poonawalla are now saying can only be considered as lame excuses. Should Poonawalla be sincere, he should not have fled the country or he should not have signed agreements in Britain for setting up vaccine production factories in that country. It is easily understood, Poonawalla’s venture in Britain is not going to export vaccines to India. Instead it would be meeting demands of the European as well as other nations.
Weeks ago, Adar Poonawalla was considered as a darling to the Indian people. Indians were feeling proud of having world’s largest manufacturer of vaccines in their own soil. But now, things have changed. In fact, it is continuing to change further. People are already questioning sincerity of Adar Poonawalla and his company.