NEW DELHI, Feb 21 (Reuters) – Serum Institute of India
(SII), the world’s biggest vaccine maker by volume, on Sunday
asked for patience from foreign governments awaiting their
supply of COVID-19 shots, saying it had been directed to
prioritise India’s requirements.
“…I humbly request you to please be patient,” SII’s Chief
Executive Adar Poonawalla said in a tweet https://twitter.com/adarpoonawalla/status/1363346341275967488,
adding the company “has been directed to prioritise the huge
needs of India and along with that balance the needs of the rest
of the world.”
“We are trying our best,” Poonawalla said.
Based in the western Indian city of Pune, the company is
manufacturing the Oxford University/AstraZeneca COVID-19
vaccine, one of the two shots that India is using to initially
vaccinate some 300 million people as part of a national
Many low-and middle-income countries, ranging from
Bangladesh to Brazil, are depending on SII’s AstraZeneca
vaccine, branded COVISHIELD by the Indian company.
But demand is growing, including from Western countries like
Canada, where Poonawalla has promised to deliver the COVISHIELD
vaccine next month.
Britain’s drug regulator is also auditing manufacturing
processes at SII, potentially paving the way for the COVISHIELD
vaccine to be shipped from there to the UK and other countries.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has come
under criticism for the slow take-off of its vaccination drive
but health authorities are preparing to expand the number of
inoculation substantially in coming weeks.
India has vaccinated around 11 million people since
With more than 10.9 million confirmed infections, India has
the world’s second highest number of COVID-19 cases, behind only
the United States.
The country is currently reporting around 12,000 new
infections on average each day, a fraction of its peak from last
September, according to a Reuters analysis.
But federal health authorities on Sunday said they had
written to some states that are currently seeing a surge in
cases, asking them to improve overall testing, surveillance and
monitoring of COVID-19 mutations.
(Reporting by Devjyot Ghoshal; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)