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‘You can deliver vaccines 7-10 days after purchase order’: Adar Poonawalla


Adar Poonawalla, CEO of the Serum Institute of India (SII), the local maker of the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, spoke with Rhythma Kaul on the future course of action after the authorization of emergency use by the Indian drug regulator for the vaccine.

IBS has already produced millions of doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine. How sure were you that the bet paid off?

We weren’t very sure at the beginning in March-April, but we were 100% committed, financially and technically. We had a lot at stake and we are happy that it worked. It is not just financial; If it hadn’t worked, we would have wasted six months doing something else, and people would have gotten the vaccine much later. So it is a great victory that the drug controller approved it.

Do you think the approval took longer than expected?

I’m very happy and grateful for the way it went because we didn’t want to rush anyone to do something. We wanted the drug controller and the ministry of health to really go through all the data, look at everything, to verify what we have done, what Oxford has made safe and effective.

What Happens After Receiving Regulatory Approvals?

They (the government of India) still have to sign a purchase order with us and tell us where to send the vaccine, and 7-10 days after that, we can deliver the vaccine. We have already offered you in writing a very special price of ₹ 200, for the government only, for the first 100 million doses and then the price will be higher or different. In the private market, we have said it will cost ₹ 1,000 per dose as MRP, and we probably sell it for ₹ 600-700. In exports too, it will be between $ 3-5, depending on the different countries we are signing with, but that will probably come in March-April because the government has said there are no exports at this time. We cannot give it to the private market.

Does the export restriction also mean that you cannot supply Covax facilities?

I can only give it to Covax after they ease these restrictions, which I’m sure they will in two months as this is not forever. This is only for a time until the government has enough doses to serve the most vulnerable people.

How many quality tested doses do you have ready for the government?

50 million.

How hard is it to do rumors?

Anyone has the right to question science or facts, but the more we read about what data is made; where it’s been proven, you talk and listen to some of the experts, then build confidence over time that these vaccines are very safe and effective. No one is going to force anyone to get vaccinated.

Is it correct that you said that only three vaccines in the world have proven efficacy?

Only three in the world have shown efficacy (Pfizer, Moderna and Oxofrd-AstraZeneca) … No one else in India, Russia, Europe or anywhere else has completed efficacy studies. They have all done safety and immunogenicity studies, which is what we have done in India for other candidates as well; and some other companies in India, which I won’t name, have done it too, but without any efficacy study we don’t know if any vaccine works.

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