World's largest vaccine manufacturer Serum Institute of India (SII) on Tuesday said it is reducing its locally-made Covid-19 vaccine Covishield's production by at least 50 per cent from next week as the company has no further orders from the Indian government, according to a report.
In an interview with CNBC-TV18, Serum CEO Adar Poonawalla said, "The company is in a dilemma as supply is more than demand for Covishield and it has to dial down the production. We will complete our existing orders to the government by next week. The company has written to the government for guidance on volumes needed."
"If the government doesn't need it, SII will start exporting as I mentioned in Q1 of 2020. We have recently explained this to the government and we have been discussing so I think we will wait a few days for them to have their internal discussion and get back to us," Poonawalla added, according to CNBC-TV18.
He also informed that Serum has 500 million doses of Covishield -- Half of that is finished product and half of that is bulk, which can be filled and finished in a matter of two months and it has a shelf life of nine months --is available on priority to the Indian government.
When asked about the resumption of Covid-19 vaccines to the UN-backed COVAX distribution programme, Poonawalla said he has reviewed orders of 400-500 million doses through COVAX and has been in touch with various African leaders, according to the interview.
To be sure, in November, Pune-based SII resumed exports of coronavirus vaccines to COVAX after halting most overseas sales in March.
At the time, SII had contracts to provide COVAX with 200 million doses of locally-produced Oxford's AstraZeneca vaccine Covishield, and unfinalised agreements to supply 350 million more, as per reports.
Poonawalla also added that SII can produce 150 million doses of Covovax (another COVID-19 vaccine in partnership with US-based company Novavax) per month once granted licensure. To recall, Serum Institute also started making the Novavax vaccine under license in June. Further, he added that the company is ready to produce 20-30 million doses per month of Sputnik Light. Both vaccines are backed by orders.
Meanwhile, the Indian government last week informed that as communicated by SII, the current monthly production capacity of Covishield is 250-275 million doses.
Further, as communicated by Bharat Biotech International Limited, Hyderabad, the current monthly production capacity of Covaxin is 50-60 million doses, Minister of State for Health Bharati Pravin Pawar said in a written reply in Lok Sabha during the Winter Session of the Parliament. Responding to a question on whether the government has ascertained if the two approved COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers have achieved optimum production capacity, Pawar said, ''Both companies have achieved close to 90 per cent of present production capacity.''
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