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Stopped Covishield production in Dec 2021, 100 million doses already expired: SII’s Poonawalla

On a positive note, Poonawalla said that the SII has completed the trials for the Covid vaccine Covovax as a booster dose and is expecting approval within the next 10-15 days.

Adar Poonawalla, CEO, Serum Institute of India and Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist, WHO addressing the media during the inauguration of ‘Global Equity and Timely Access. Covid 19 and beyond’, a three day DCVMN’s ( Developing country’s Vaccine Manufactures Network ) meet at Hotel Ritz Carlton on Thursday. (Express photo by Arul Horizon. 20/10/2022, Pune)

Confirming that Serum Institute of India (SII) has stopped production of Covishield vaccine in December 2021 only, the firm’s CEO Adar Poonawalla said on Thursday that people are “fed up” of Covid and vaccines.

Speaking with mediapersons on the sidelines of the 23rd three-day annual general meeting of the Developing Countries Vaccine Manufacturers’ Network (DCVMN) inaugurated in Pune, Poonawalla said that of the total stock available at that time, around 100 million doses had already got expired.

The vaccine manufacturer said that developing new vaccines against emerging sub-variants of Omicron will take time. Though, on a positive note, he said that his firm has completed trials for Covid vaccine Covovax as a booster dose and was expecting approval within the next 10-15 days. “We have completed the trials as part of the DCGI (regulator) requirement,” Poonawalla said at the event that was inaugurated by Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya. The global event brought together over 400 leaders, researchers and scientists from several global public health organisations and vaccine manufacturing industries and research institutes.

When asked by The Indian Express about an update on Covishield vaccine which is also being used as a booster dose, Poonawalla said the company had stopped production of Covishield in December 2021. “At least a 100 million doses have expired and we have stopped production of Covishield in December 2021,” Poonawalla said. He acknowledged that there was a lethargy in taking booster doses. “People are fed up of Covid and vaccines. However, maybe people can take a flu shot annually along with a Covid booster,” Poonawalla noted. The experience, though, has not been promising and Poonawalla pointed out that unlike in the West, there is no culture in India for taking flu shots. “We did attempt during the previous H1N1 pandemic but to no avail,” he said.

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Poonawalla, meanwhile, also expressed hope about intranasal vaccines that have a potential to reduce transmission.
“We will wait for the results of the Codagenix-Serum Institute of India’s single dose intranasal Covid-19 vaccine before making any announcement,” Poonawalla said. The SII chief observed that clinical trials may take longer since with the pandemic virtually over, the regulatory bodies may not work at a rapid pace like they did during the pandemic’s peak. “However, we expect that Covovax as a booster dose vaccine should get approved in 10-15 days as we have completed the trials in India which was a requirement,” he said.

Earlier, at the inaugural session, Dr Mandaviya said that 70 per cent of the country’s population has been fully vaccinated against Covid-19. “When the power of government, scientists and industries is combined with national and international organisations, all health challenges can be faced and resolved,” the Union Health and Family Welfare Minister said.

Sai D Prasad, Board Chair-DCVMN, said, “To build a seamless global logistical and distribution access to vaccines, we need a stable political environment over a long period; a strict, transparent, and strong regulatory system; and sustainable, valued-based pricing for a healthy industry, which is led by innovation-driven product development, and multilateral associations.”

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Tracing history of DCVMN, Rajinder Suri, CEO of the grouping, acknowledged the contribution of Cyrus Poonawalla and
other founding members of the body.

SII to supply 20 mn doses of HPV vaccine to Indian government by 2023

Poonawalla said that by 2023, the SII would supply one to two million doses of Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine against cervical cancer to the Indian government. “The HPV facility was being used for Covid vaccines during the pandemic and hence there was a delay. A larger launch will be planned next year,” he said. “We are matching our scale up with demand for India and export requirements,” Poonawalla added.

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20,000-30,000 doses of experimental Ebola vaccine to be supplied to Uganda
The SII will be providing 20,000 to 30,000 doses of an experimental Ebola vaccine to Uganda for WHO trials. Poonawalla said that if the trials are successful, the firm will consider if it would stockpile the product for future outbreaks. There have been more than 50 confirmed cases of Ebola and 19 deaths since last month in Uganda, according to reports.

First published on: 20-10-2022 at 20:34 IST
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