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Speaking at the India Global Forum 2021, Serum Institute of India (SII) CEO Adar Poonawalla on Wednesday opened up on the numerous challenges that he faced as a vaccine manufacturer in a pandemic-stricken world and what the path forward looked like for the globe.
Addressing the deadly second wave of COVID-19 that had hit India, Adar Poonawalla said that he was hopeful that the country would go back to supporting WHO's COVAX initiative very soon.
"I don't think things have gone that badly wrong. You need billions of doses of vaccines and we are ramping up and others are also ramping up. There was always going to be a situation where some nations go ahead of other nations. We started at 60 million doses between January to the end of February more than any other country. After the second wave, we had to focus the firepower for the Indian population. Eventually, India will go back to supporting COVAX to support equitable distribution of vaccines," he asserted.
As a global vaccine manufacturer, Poonawalla extensively elaborated on challenges that the world was facing when it came to equitable distribution and supply of vaccines. He also detailed the challenges that Serum Institute of India in turn faced during India's second wave and how he had to channel all manpower domestically.
Detailing the initial chaos when manufacturers were asked to stop exporting COVID-19 vaccines he said, For SII it (second wave) was a particularly stressful time, it wasn't just our partners in Astra Zeneca, it was COVAX, we had also taken advance funding from other countries. We had to explain to other nations that we need to support our nation first. Slowly when they realized, everyone was really supportive and understanding and things settled down," he said.
He also shared his thoughts on patent waivers on COVID-19 vaccines in terms of the proposal tabled by India and South Africa, stating that waiving IP will not solve the immediate shortage of vaccines. "In the long-term, it is a good strategy. For sharing of strategy that is accessible for future pandemics, this could be a great platform and mechanism but it won't be fair to innovators to have a blanket waiver without any commercial terms," the SII CEO said.
On the way forward for the globe, Adar Poonawalla said that certain strategies needed to be adopted by nations such as the US, UK, India, and China who were vaccine superpowers. "I have always talked about global harmonization for pandemics, global regulations, and a set standard. I am sure we can come to a standard that is acceptable to all. It will save us a lot of time," he said.
"The world can still come together in ensuring long-term capacity. This pandemic may be hopefully over in 2-3 years but building stockpiling capacities is important. In 5 years' time, let's say there's another pandemic, someone makes a viral vector vaccine, you will have to find a manufacturer, do a tie-up, etc. Why not have that in-built for the next 15 years? If nations who have no manufacturing capabilities invest in empty capacity now and enter into an agreement for say the next 15-years they can deal with future pandemics with a push of a button. Global harmonization for regulations is another important lesson. These are the things I have learned and I would propose," he said.
You can catch the India Global Forum live streaming on June 30 & July 1 on - https://www.republicworld.com/india-global-forum-2021.html