Vaccine maker says it needs Indian government funds
Published: Apr 07, 2021 06:33 PM
Restrictions on exporting its ­COVID-19 vaccines have left India's Serum Institute needing financial help from the government, its CEO said, with the world's largest jab manufacturer under pressure at home from soaring cases.

Indian government in March put the brakes on exports of AstraZeneca jabs made by the Serum Institute of India (SII) as the nation of 1.3 billion people experienced an alarming new wave of infections.

The pressure has meant production capacity at SII is "very stressed, to put it quite frankly," the firm's CEO Adar Poonawalla told NDTV late Tuesday. "The globe needs this vaccine and we are prioritizing the needs of India at the moment and we are still short of being able to supply... to every Indian that needs it."

The company now requires additional funding of 30 billion rupees ($408 million) to ramp up capacity and has asked the government for financial help, he added.

"This was never budgeted or planned initially because we were supposed to export and get the funding from export countries but now that that is not happening, we have to find other innovative ways to build our capacity," Poonawalla said.

SII, which produces over two million doses of Covishield - the local name for the AstraZeneca vaccine - a day, is providing the jab at a subsidized rate of around 150 rupees to India, significantly less than what it charges for exports.

"The price that is set is profitable, however it is not profitable enough to re-invest substantially in building capacity," Poonawalla said.

SII has seen its profile soar since the pandemic, with several countries including Britain, Brazil and South Africa clamoring to buy its vaccine.

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