In a significant development strengthening the fight against COVID-19, the Serum Institute of India (SII) has informed the government that it will be able to manufacture and supply 9-10 crore doses of Covishield in June. This development assumes significance in the light of the shortage of vaccine doses with state governments leading to halting the vaccinations in several parts of the country. In a letter to Union Home Minister Amit Shah, the SII said its employees have been working round the clock despite the various challenges posed by the COVID-19 crisis.
"We are pleased to inform that in the month of June we will be able to manufacture and supply nine to 10 crore doses of our Covishield vaccine to the country as compared to our production capacity of 6.5 crore doses in May," SII's Director of Government and Regulatory Affairs, Prakash Kumar Singh said in the letter.
"Serum Institute of India has always been sincerely concerned about the protection of the citizens of our country and world at large from COVID-19. Under the leadership of our CEO, Adar C Poonawalla, our team have been working relentlessly shoulder to shoulder with our government to fight the COVID-19 pandemic," he said in the letter.
"We assure you that with the support of the Government of India and under your kind guidance, we are trying our best by utilizing all of our resources to increase our production capacity of Covishield in the coming month also," the letter added.
Amid multiple states reporting a shortage of COVID-19 vaccines, SII on May 12 had submitted its production plan to the Centre, informing it will ramp up the production of Covishield to 6.5 crore doses in June, seven crore in July and 10 crore each in August and September.
India at present is vaccinating the citizens with SII-AstraZeneca manufactured Covishield and Bharat Biotech developed Covaxin along with the recent addition of Russian made Sputnik V. India has administered 21,20,66,614 till now with 30,35,749 vaccine jabs administered on the previous day, according to Union Health Ministry. Despite the shortage of vaccines, India became the second country to administer 20 crore vaccine doses, in record 130 days, with the US being the first to achieve the feat in 124 days.
Covishield, which has been approved by World Health Organisation for Emergency Use Authorisation, is approved in at least 40 countries including India. SII is also bound by its commitment to supply vaccines to COVAX, the global initiative to supply coronavirus vaccines to nations around the world. The terrible surge in COVID-19 in India has severely impacted COVAX's vaccines supply during the second quarter of this year to the extent that there will exist a shortfall of 190 million doses by the end of June, a joint statement by the WHO, UNICEF, GAVI, and CEPI said. Earlier in the month, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had reminded SII saying it needs to get back on track and catch up on its delivery commitments to COVAX after the devastating outbreak in India recedes.