As the world continues its fight against coronavirus, Adar Poonawalla, the chief executive of the world's biggest vaccine manufacturer Serum Institute of India, has warned that vaccine makers are falling short of raw material to manufacture Covid-19 vaccines. Serum Institute of India (SII) has been licenced to produce hundreds of millions of Covid-19 vaccines via its partnerships with Oxford University and Swedish-British pharma major AstraZeneca, and Novavax Inc.
Poonawalla, during a World Bank panel discussion on Thursday, said the US decision to block exports of key raw materials, including bags and filters, will hamper the global vaccination efforts. "The Novavax vaccine, which we're a major manufacturer for, needs these items from the US...if we're talking about building capacity all over the world, the sharing of these critical raw materials is going to become a critical limiting factor - nobody has been able to address this so far," said Poonawalla, reported Bloomberg.
Notably, the Biden administration had recently decided to enforce the Defence Production Act, which allowed it to boost raw material supplies to make Pfizer vaccines in the country. The US drugmaker, which has also developed a coronavirus vaccine, had last year scaled back its production targets for the current year due to a shortage of raw material.
The SII CEO stressed the Biden administration must allow the export of raw material. "We're talking about having free global access to vaccines but if we can't get the raw materials out of the US -- that's going to be a serious limiting factor," Poonawalla said.
Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist at the World Health Organisation, said the world was facing a huge shortage of raw material to vaccinate the global population, and that there was a need for a global agreement on the exports of such material. To discuss this critical issue, the WHO's vaccine partners like the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations and the Developing Countries Vaccine Manufacturers Network will meet next week, she said. The Indian government has authorised SII to supply 24 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to 25 countries on a commercial basis this month.
So far, 16.7 million doses of Covishield have been supplied to 20 countries. This includes approximately 6.3 million doses that were supplied free to 13 countries -- Bangladesh, Myanmar, Bhutan, Nepal, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Bahrain Oman and the Caribbean. About 10 million more doses were exported on a commercial basis to Brazil, Morocco, South Africa, Algeria, and Egypt among others. Commercial supplies in February will include Saudi Arabia, Myanmar, Nepal, Nicaragua, Mauritius, Serbia, UAE, and Qatar.
Besides, the Pune-based Serum Institute of India will soon be sending Oxford-AstraZeneca's coronavirus vaccine to Canada. Poonawalla has said his firm would supply Covishield vaccine to Canada 'in less than a month' after receiving regulatory approval from the Justin Trudeau government.