Updated: January 26, 2022 8:09:20 am
“Health is one of the strongest pillars of the society and I will continue to work towards making it equitable for all,” Dr Cyrus Poonawalla, 81, the chairman and managing director of the Poonawalla group said while expressing his gratitude to the Government of India after being bestowed with the Padma Bhushan award.
One of the highest civilian awards in the country, the Padma Bhushan has been awarded to Dr Poonawalla for exceptional and distinguished service in trade and industry field. In his statement, Dr Poonawalla said, “It is a great privilege for me to be among the prestigious list of illustrious people who have contributed to the growth of the country.”
Dr Poonawalla founded the Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII) in 1966 with the aim of manufacturing life saving immuno-biologicals in India which were in shortage in the country at that time and were being imported at high prices. SII went on to manufacture several life-saving biologicals at prices affordable to the common man and is now the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer by number of doses produced and sold globally.
The vaccines include those for polio, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, Hib, BCG, Hepatitis B, measles, mumps and rubella. It is estimated that about 65 per cent of the children in the world across 170 countries have received at least one vaccine manufactured by SII.
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More recently, SII collaborated with the University of Oxford and the British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca to make the Covid-19 vaccine Covishield. Under the leadership of Dr Cyrus and Adar Poonawalla, Team Serum has been working tirelessly over the last several months to get Covishield vaccine doses. SII surpassed the 1.25-billion doses mark for Covishield and also resumed global distribution via the COVAX mechanism to low- and middle-income countries.
Adar Poonawalla congratulated all the deserving Padma awardees while colleagues close to Dr Cyrus Poonawalla applauded their visionary leader.
Adar Poonawalla took to Twitter to express gratitude to the Government of India for acknowledging “my mentor, my hero, my father Dr Cyrus Poonawalla” as he posted a picture of his father in his younger days.
Several close aides said that they were filled with pride at the honour, which was “long overdue”.
Dr Rajeev Dhere, executive director at SII, told The Indian Express, “I feel that this is a well-deserved award – We had hoped that Dr Cyrus would get the award much earlier. Still it is very apt that he has been awarded this year.” He added: “We are very happy to be part of the SII and proud that we have a visionary leader. He created a type of business model which is a workable, philanthropic one.”
It is the company’s philanthropic philosophy which is at the core of bringing down prices of newer vaccines such as Hepatitis-B to ensure that not just Indians but underprivileged children all over the world are protected birth onwards.
Last year, Dr Cyrus Poonawalla received the prestigious Lokmanya Tilak national award.
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