Adar Poonawalla said India’s vaccination drive cannot be completed in two or three months(FILE)

Highlights

  • Adar Poonawalla explained circumstances in which vaccines were exported
  • Important to “stay united to fight the pandemic”, he said
  • Adar Poonawalla moved to the UK earlier this month amid vaccine shortage

New Delhi:

Serum Institute chief Adar Poonawalla today said his firm has “never exported vaccines at the cost of the people of India”. India’s vaccination drive, he said, cannot be completed in two or three months given the huge population. It is Important to “stay united to fight the pandemic”, read his statement in which he also pointed out that India is now receiving support from nations where vaccines, medicines were exported.

In the statement, Mr Poonawalla also explained the circumstances in which consignments of vaccines were sent abroad and the commitments made by the government in the initial stages of the pandemic last year.

When the vaccines were launched in January, there was a stockpile in India. The Covid numbers were at an “all-time low” and the vaccination drive had started successfully, he said.

At the same time, many other nations were in an “acute crisis” and in “desperate need of help”. The government, he said, extended whatever help was possible.

Pointing out that the pandemic will “not be limited by geographical or political boundaries,” he said “we will not be safe till everyone has been able to defeat the virus on a global scale”.

Mr Poonawalla was given Y category security in April after the government conducted a threat assessment amid the raging second wave of coronavirus and anger in the country over vaccine shortage. Days later, he had left for the UK from where he is expected to return within the next few weeks.

The Serum Institute chief’s statement came today amid much opposition criticism of the government over the vaccine shortage. Many states, including Delhi, have been unable to continue vaccination of all eligible age groups due to the shortage.

Over the weekend, as posters mushroomed in Delhi criticising Prime Minster Narendra Modi over the export of the much-needed vaccine, the police arrested 17 people who were allegedly involved.

The opposition reacted with outrage, with many leaders including Congress’s Rahul Gandhi, posting defiant tweets.

The need to conduct vaccination on a war footing has been felt with experts warning about a third wave of the virus which might target children.  Some experts have pointed out that a way to forestall this is to immediately vaccinate 80 per cent of the adult population.  

This is a near-impossible goal unless there is a massive scaling up vaccination in terms of production and other logistics. If the current rate is continued, it would take more than three years to vaccinate 80 per cent of all adults in the country.

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