Serum Insitute of India (SII) CEO Adar Poonawalla has moved to London because of threatening phone calls from country's "most powerful" people for instant supplies of COVID-19 vaccine Covishield.
SII is manufacturing AstraZeneca-Oxford University's Covishield vaccine in India.
In an interview to The Times, Poonawalla said he had been getting phone calls from the "most powerful" in India, including chief ministers, and business leaders, for immediate supply of Covishield vaccine.
"Threats is an understatement. The level of expectation and agression is really unprecedented. It's overwhelming. Everyone feels they should get the vaccine. They can't understand why anyone else should get it before them," Poonawalla said referrring to the phone calls.
Explaining the phone calls and the agressive tone, he said, "They are saying if you don't give us the vaccine it's not going to be good. It's not foul language, it's the tone. It's the implication of what they might do if I don't comply. It's coming over and basically surrounding the place and not letting us do anything unless we give in to their demands."
Poonawalla, who is currently in London, said, "I'm staying here (London) an extended time because I don't want to go back to that situation...Everything falls on my shoulders but I can't do it alone...I don't want to be in a situation where you are just trying to do your job, and just because you can't supply the needs of X, Y or Z you really don't want to guess what they are going to do."
SII also plans to begin vaccine production outside India, including UK, and his move to London is also linked to it.
"There's going to be an announcement in the next few days," he said on being asked if vaccines will be produced in UK.
Earlier this week, the Centre had decided to give Y category security to Poonawalla. The government's decision came after the director, government and regulatory affairs at SII Prakash Kumar Singh wrote to the Union Home Minister Amit Shah on April 16.
In his letter, Singh had requested the Union Home Ministry to provide security to Poonawalla. He also talked about the threats that Poonawalla had received from various groups over supplies of SII's coronavirus vaccine.
As India battles the second wave of COVID-19 pandemic, the Centre has opened up vaccination for everyone above the age of 18 years. However, there is a shortage of vaccines with many states not able to start the vaccination for 18-45 age group on Saturday because of lack of vaccines.
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