As the world’s vaccine giants race to vaccinate humanity, one of the Indian pharmaceutical companies has topped the scene.
The Serum Institute of India (SII) is not a household name, but it is the largest vaccine maker in the world, producing 1.5 billion doses every year from its huge plant in Pune in western India.
He currently manufactures Covid-19 vaccines, under license by pharmaceutical companies such as AstraZeneca.
“We took a huge calculated risk,” Adar Poonawala, CEO of the India Serum Institute company, told the BBC, by betting on several vaccines in 2020 before the regulators approved them.
“It was not a blind risk because we know Oxford University scientists through our previous collaboration on the malaria vaccine,” he added.
The company’s ownership of the private sector provided an opportunity for quick decision-making between Bunawala and his scientists.
But the funding proved to be a challenge, while the company invested about $ 260 million in the Covid vaccine, and raised the rest from donors such as Bill Gates, and initial financial payments from other countries.
The serum institute of India company was able to obtain 800 million dollars by May 2020 to produce multiple vaccines against the virus.
600 million packages
How did the serum institute of india increase production?
In April of 2020 Poonawala calculated the refills and filters they would need.
“I got 600 million glass bottles of a similar number of doses early and stored in my warehouse by last September,” he said.
He pointed out that “the most important part that enabled us to get so many doses, 70-80 million doses last January, is because I risked manufacturing last August.”
“I wish the other companies had taken that risk as well, because the world would have received much more doses,” he added.
Bunawala criticized the patchwork of global management systems and the lack of coordination regarding production delays.
He said that major regulators, including the UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), could have standardized and agreed quality standards to facilitate Granting production permits.
Poonawala also criticized national governments, claiming that regulators in countries that manufacture vaccines, from India to Europe, could have united to agree on an international standard.
He asked, “Why don’t we achieve harmony between all these systems and save all that time, especially with regard to new vaccines? I hate having to go through all of these procedures again.”
Poonawala played down concerns about the new strains, and said, “Anyone who took the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine did not yet have to go to the hospital or use a ventilator and his life was not at risk.”
“They also transmitted this disease to others, yes … it is not an ideal situation, but it has protected your life,” he added.
In India, the institute is also participating in the largest vaccination program in the world to vaccinate 300 million people by next August, but according to Bloomberg, only 56% of people eligible to receive the vaccine have already done so.
“A lot of hesitation about vaccines usually comes when any celebrity or non-expert says that vaccines are not safe,” Bunawala said.
And he added, “I always ask celebrities and others who have this tremendous power on social networks to be a little responsible and to read the facts before saying anything.”