Serum Institute of India CEO Aadar Poonawalla has said that the production of COVID-19 vaccine Covishield is in full swing in Pune and he will review the operations once he is back in the country. Regarding the latter, he has said he will return to India from London in a
few days. Poonawalla is currently in the UK to meet his family members.
"Had an excellent meeting with all our partners & stakeholders in the UK. Meanwhile, pleased to state that COVISHIELD's production is in full swing in Pune. I look forward to reviewing operations upon my return in a few days," Poonawalla said in a tweet.
Poonawalla made the announcement soon after he spoke out about the pressures he was under over the production of COVID-19 vaccines to meet the ever-increasing demand in India as the country battles through a devastating second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. That pressure is largely behind his decision to fly into London to be with his wife and children, the 40-year-old entrepreneur had said.
India rolled out the third phase of its COVID-19 vaccination drive for those in the age group of 18-45 years on Saturday though the inoculation process failed to take off in some states due to a shortage of vaccines.
While Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, and Jammu, and Kashmir among other states and union territories launched the vaccination drive, Karnataka and Odisha made only a symbolic start to it.
Covishield is the most used COVID-19 vaccine in India. Along with Bharat Biotech's Covaxin, it is being used by the government for vaccination in the country.
According to Indian government officials, the protection to Poonawalla has been given given "potential threats" to him. Armed commandos of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) will be with him every time he travels to any part of the country, they said and added that the 'Y' security cover will entail a posse of about 4-5 armed commandos.
"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," Poonawalla had said.
The businessman indicated in the interview that his move to London is also linked to business plans to expand vaccine manufacturing to countries outside India, which may include the likes of the UK.
Last week, SII announced a cut in the price of the jab it plans to sell to states to Rs 300 per dose from the earlier Rs 400.
The price cut came after widespread criticism of its pricing policy as it had sold the initial doses of Covishield to the central government at Rs 150 per dose.
India's daily coronavirus tally crossed the grim milestone of four lakh, while the death toll rose to 2,11,853 with 3,523 fresh fatalities, according to the date updated by the Union Health Ministry on Saturday.
The infection tally rose to 1,91,64,969 with 4,01,993 new cases, while the active cases crossed the 32-lakh mark, the data updated at 8 am on Saturday showed.
Registering a steady increase, the active cases stood at 32,68,710, accounting for 17.06 percent of the total infections, while the national COVID-19 recovery rate further dropped to 81.84 percent.
(With PTI Inputs)