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'AstraZeneca sent legal notice; US holding back crucial material for vaccine': Adar Poonawalla

BusinessToday.In     April 8, 2021

Serum Institute of India CEO Adar Poonawalla said that UK-based pharma company AstraZeneca has sent a legal notice to its manufacturing partner over delays in COVID-19 vaccine supply. Adding to the woes, the US is also holding back crucial material required for the manufacturing of the vaccine. The US has invoked the Defence Act that restricts export of raw materials that are in turn impacting the manufacturing.

Speaking about the legal notice, Poonawalla said the Indian government is aware of the situation too. "AstraZeneca has sent us a legal notice and the Indian government is also aware of that. I cannot comment on the legal notice as it is confidential, but we are examining all avenues to amicably manage and resolve legal disputes over contractual obligations that Serum Institute is not able to fulfil due to its prioritisation of Indian supplies," he said in an interview to Business Standard. The drug mogul said that everyone has been understanding so far and that the government is evaluating what it can do to resolve the issue.  

Adar Poonawalla also spoke about the pain point of raw materials. "This is as good as banning vaccines," he said, addressing the US' Defence Act that has banned export of raw materials. He said that all vaccine producers are facing difficulties because of this. Novavax production has been stalled because of this, he said.

Poonawalla said, "There is a long list of raw materials which we import from the US - filters, bags, certain media solutions, etc. To develop new suppliers in the eleventh hour will take a bit of time. We will do that. We will not be dependent on the US after six months. The problem is we need it now."

Poonawalla said that SII has submitted a formal proposal for an upfront grant from the government. The grant would help them set up a factory. It is otherwise difficult to ramp up as they have already poured in thousands of crores and borrowed Rs 1,500 crore, he said to the daily. He said that if the funds come, then they would be able to deliver double the quantity of vaccines within two months.

While the price of vaccines is $20 on average globally, Serum is making $2 per dose, said Poonawalla. He said that if players do not see an environment where they can sell the vaccine for $5-7 per dose then there would be no incentive for them.

Also read: PM Modi to meet CMs today to discuss COVID-19 surge, vaccination drive

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