While India is badly hit by the COVID pandemic, owner of world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, Serum Institute of India, Adar Poonawalla has secretly left the country. Although, sitting in Britain, Poonawalla told reporters he left India to avoid possible travel ban on Indian nationals by Britain, and staying in UK for “an extended time” because he does not want to return home at this situation.
Poonawalla is chief executive officer of the Serum Institute, which is the local maker of the coronavirus vaccine developed by Oxford University and pharmaceuticals company AstraZeneca.
It was earlier reported, Serum Institute was facing threats from people for its failure of meeting the domestic requirement of Covid-19 vaccines. Commenting on it he said, “Everything falls on my shoulders but I can’t do it alone. I don’t want to be in situation where you are just trying to do your job, and just because you can’t supply the needs of X, Y or Z you really don’t want to guess what they are going to do”.
He further said, “The level of expectation and aggression is really unprecedented. It’s overwhelming. Everyone feels they should get the vaccine. They can’t understand why anyone else should get it before them”.
According to The Times, the Serum Institute chief said phone calls for the Covishield vaccine was the “worst thing”. While the conversation begins cordially, Poonawalla said, it goes in a “very different direction” when he explains why he cannot possibly meet the vaccine demands.
“They are saying if you don’t give us the vaccine it’s not going to be good,” he added. “It’s not foul language. It’s the tone. It’s the implication of what they might do if I don’t comply. It’s taking control. It’s coming over and basically surrounding the place [Serum Institute campus in Pune] and not letting us do anything unless we give in to their demands”.
Modi government provides ‘Y’ category security to Serum Institute owner
Indian government earlier said they would provide ‘Y’ category security to Poonawalla across India. The Ministry of Home Affairs had issued orders after conducting a detailed threat assessment.
Poonawalla also added, “There’s going to be an announcement in the next few days.” He said that the Serum Institute is hoping to increase production capacity of its Covishield vaccine from 2.5 billion to 3 billion doses a year within six months. But critics say, such statements of Serum Institute would be simply an attempt of fooling people and taking a breathing time.
Meanwhile, Poonawalla has said he was planning to start production in other countries amid struggles to meet supply commitments.
Several states in India have postponed the rollout of the third phase of inoculation for those between 18 to 45 years as they have run out of vaccines, exacerbating a second wave of the pandemic.
The 40-year-old told The Times that he cannot comment about the Narendra Modi government’s decision to allow Kumbh Mela in Uttarakhand’s Haridwar and conduct Assembly elections amid the surge in infections. “If I give you the right answer, or any answer, my head would be chopped off,” Poonawalla said. “I can’t comment on the elections or Kumbh Mela. It’s too sensitive…I don’t think even God could have forecast it was going to get this bad.”
India has reported more than 300,000 coronavirus cases for the last nine days. On Saturday, it set another global record by reporting more than 4 lakh new infections. The country now has 1,91,64,969 total cases since the pandemic first broke out in January 2020.
It may be mentioned here that, Adar Poonawalla and his Serum Institute have received millions of dollars from different countries, including Bangladesh as advance payment for supplying vaccine.