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US export curbs can hamper Covid-19 vaccine production, availability: Poonawalla

Adar Poonawalla, CEO of Serum Institute of India.Premium
Adar Poonawalla, CEO of Serum Institute of India.

  • Poonawalla stated one of the constraints that need to be addressed but nobody is able to address so far is the availability of critical items from the US
  • He called for regulatory harmonisation between organisations such as WHO and authorities of vaccine manufacturing countries

Serum Institute of India (SII) CEO Adar Poonawalla on Friday said the production of Covid-19 vaccines and scaling up global availability could be seriously limited due to ban on exports of critical raw materials by the United States.

Speaking at an event organized by the World Bank, he also called for regulatory harmonisation between organisations such as WHO and authorities of vaccine manufacturing countries that includes India, US, Europe and the UK. He added, "We will have to come during only this pandemic on to some common platform whereby we can shave off months, where parallel approvals can come when you have countries with manufacturers whose NRAs are approved etc."

Poonawalla also stated one of the constraints that need to be addressed but nobody is able to address so far is the availability of critical items from the US.

"There are lot of bags and filters and critical items that manufacturers need. I will give you an example. The Novavax vaccine that we are a major manufacturer of, need these items from the US."

"Now the US has chosen to invoke the Defence Act, in which there is a sub-clause which prevents the export of critical raw materials required for their local vaccine manufacturers," he added.

"Because if we are talking about building capacity all over the world, the sharing of these critical raw materials, which just can't be replaced in a matter of six months or a year, is going to become a critical limiting factor," SII CEO said stressing on the need to look into the matter.

He further asserted, "We are talking about having a free global access to vaccines but if we can't get the raw materials out of the US, which a lot of manufacturers, not just Novovax that needs, that's going to be a serious limiting factor for other manufacturers to scale up."

He further said it would further enhance the speed of uptake and deliveries of these vaccines from the main manufacturing hubs, including Russia, India, US and Europe, which are making the vaccines. SII, the world's largest vaccines manufacturer, has the licence to manufacture AstraZaneca/Oxford's Covishield vaccine which has been approved by the Indian government. The company is also in partnership with Novavax for the latter's COVID-19 vaccine.

(With inputs from agencies)


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