We did not boost covid vaccine production because ‘there were no orders’: SII chief

News Network
May 3, 2021

May 3: Serum Institute of India Chief Executive Officer Adar Poonawalla has said that India’s Covid-19 vaccine shortage would continue through July, reported The Financial Times. Poonawalla said that the production of the vaccines is expected to increase from 60-70 million doses (6-7 crore) to 100 million (10 crore) by then.

Poonawalla told The Financial Times that his company has been maligned by politicians and critics over shortages in vaccines. He said that the government, not the Serum Institute, was responsible for policy decisions.

While the Centre launched the third phase of the immunisation drive, covering citizens above 18 years, several states have expressed their inability to conduct the inoculation programme as they do not have sufficient vaccines. Many states are awaiting more stock from drug companies.

Currently, India is reeling under the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. The country’s infrastructure is under severe strain as cases are surging at an alarming rate. India has registered more than 3 lakh cases for over 10 consecutive days, once even crossing the 4-lakh mark.

Poonawalla told The Financial Times that the authorities did not expect that it will have to face a second wave of the pandemic when new coronavirus cases had declined. “Everybody really felt that India had started to turn the tide on the pandemic,” he said.

The Serum Institute, which is the local maker of AstraZeneca and Oxford University’s vaccine, also faced criticism for charging state governments and hospitals a higher rate for the vaccine doses than it offered to the Centre. While the company was selling the jabs to the central government at Rs 150 per dose, it was charging states Rs 300 and private hospitals, Poonawalla had brought down the rates from Rs 400 for states and Rs 1,200 for private hospitals after the criticism, calling it a “philanthropic gesture”.

“I’ve been victimised very unfairly and wrongly,” he claimed. Poonawalla further said that he did not boost the vaccine production capacity because “there were no orders” and the company did not think it needed to produce more than 1 billion, or 100 crore, doses in a year.

Experts believe that India should have invested in boosting manufacturing capacity earlier and secured enough vaccine shots. “It is absolutely essential that you need to have something to deliver, it’s common sense,” Chandrakant Lahariya, a New Delhi-based public health expert, told The Financial Times. She added that the government has not been transparent on its vaccine policy.

In April, the Centre had given a loan to the Serum Institute to help it convert a production line to make more vaccines. “We have just done this right now to address the ridiculous shortage that the nation, and obviously now the world even, has,” said Poonawalla.

Last week, Poonwalla had said that he has left the country for London because of threats related to the delivery of Covid-19 vaccines. Later, the Serum Institute chief said he would be returning to India. However, he told The Financial Times that he was not in London over safety concerns but for normal business.

Meanwhile, India on Monday registered 3,68,147 new coronavirus cases, taking the tally in the country to 19,925,604 since the pandemic broke out in January 2020. This is the second consecutive day when the daily infection count dropped after crossing the 4-lakh mark. The toll climbed by 3,417 to 2,18,959. There are 34,13,642 active cases and as many as 1,62,93,003 patients have recovered from the infection.

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Agencies
April 26,2021

Chennai, Apr 26: On a day that saw the number of fresh COVID-19 cases cross 3.5 lakhs in the country, the Madras High Court came down heavily on the Election Commission holding it responsible for the current mess the country is in.

The High Court on Monday (April 26) said that the EC responsible for the second wave of the COVID pandemic by allowing political rallies in the country and that the officials should be booked for murder.

A bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy called EC "the most irresponsible institution".

"Your institution is singularly responsible for the second wave of COVID-19,” Banerjee told the Election Commission's counsel.

He went on to add, “Your officers should be booked on murder charges probably.”

“Were you on another planet when the election rallies were held?” the chief justice said further.

Banerjee said that Commission had failed to enforce COVID norms regarding wearing of facemasks, use of sanitizers and maintaining social distancing during election campaigns, despite several court orders.

The court warned EC that it would not allow counting of votes of elections scheduled on May 2, unless it places a plan to ensure COVID-19 protocol is followed.

"The situation now is of survival and protection. Everything else comes next,” Banerjee said.

The bench was hearing a public interest petition seeking direction to authorities to ensure fair counting of votes on May 2 in Karur by taking necessary steps to ensure COVID guidelines are followed.

Notably, the EC had denied Trinamool Congress' requests to club poll phases in West Bengal.

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Agencies
May 1,2021

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New Delhi, May 1: The unrelenting second wave of the coronavirus pandemic is becoming worse by the day with India reporting more and more deaths and cases.

As of Friday, India is reporting over two deaths and close to 270 fresh cases per minute on an average, data from the union ministry of health suggests. Further, over four cases are reported each second, the data says.

On Friday, India reported 3,86,452 new Covid-19 infections, the highest single-day rise so far. The fresh cases have pushed the country’s total tally of cases to 1.87 crore.

India also reported a record number of deaths in a day. With 3,498 new fatalities reported in 24 hours, the country’s death toll due to the pandemic increased to 2.08 lakh, the ministry says.

As of today, India’s active caseload stands at 31.70 lakh.

Since April 1, India has reported 45,403 deaths. Of these, 27,800 deaths – or more than half – have been reported since April 21, the government data says.

Since April 21, India has been reporting close to two deaths per minute on an average.

Of the 3,498 new fatalities reported on Friday, 77.44 per cent was from 10 states.

Maharashtra saw the maximum casualties, with 771. Delhi followed with 395 daily deaths.

Maharashtra, the worst-impacted state, is reporting 32 deaths per hour, while the national capital is reporting over 16 deaths per hour.

Further, since April 1, India has reported 65.41 lakh cases. Of these, 31.46 lakh cases have been reported in the last 10 days.

Of the cases reported on Friday, 10 states account for a 73.05 per cent load – Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Karnataka, Kerala, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan.

Maharashtra has reported the highest daily new cases at 66,159. It is followed by Kerala with 38,607 while Uttar Pradesh reported 35,104 new cases.

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Agencies
April 27,2021

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New Delhi: The government of India has advised people to wear masks even inside homes, especially when using a common space and also said that it is best not to invite visitors.

NITI Aayog member and head of the government’s group on vaccinations, Dr V K Paul said, “It is time people start wearing masks inside their homes as well, especially when everyone is sitting together.” He said mask protocol should definitely be followed if there is a person isolated due to Covid at home to reduce risk of infection.

“In this situation, masks are absolutely necessary, so do not go out unnecessarily. Stay with family. And also, even within the family, please wear masks. Do not invite people inside homes. There is a transmissibility angle. We must protect ourselves and our family members to the best of our ability,” Dr Paul said at the weekly briefing on Covid on Monday.

The government also highlighted improper use of masks and lack of physical distancing can increase the risk of transmission by 90%. It cited studies to show such a risk with two individuals not wearing a mask and failing to maintain adequate social distancing. The risk gets reduced to 30% if the unaffected person is wearing a mask. 

The government said studies show an infected patient can end up passing the infection to 406 people in 30 days in the absence of physical distancing. The risk comes down to infecting 2.5 persons in 30 days if he follows physical distancing measures. The government also said in the current circumstances, people with symptoms of Covid-19 should be treated as positive cases even if their RT-PCR status is negative or not available.

India on Sunday recorded 3.52 lakh Covid-19 cases. This was the fifth day in a row when over three lakh cases were registered.

Amid concerns about RT-PCR test results showing negative despite symptoms of Covid-19, AIIMS director Dr Randeep Guleria said: “Often it can happen that RT-PCR test is negative because the sensitivity of the test is not 100%. In such situations, if clinical symptoms are classical and there is a close contact who is positive, you should assume you have Covid.”

He added that many hospitals have now created a Covid suspect ward for such patients who are awaiting a positive report but have symptoms. “The state of the pandemic being what it is, I think we have to treat these people as Covid patients,” he said. The government maintained there is no shortage of testing or diagnostic kits in the country.

The Centre also stressed the need to ramp up vaccination. “We cannot let the pace of COVID-19 vaccination decline or slacken in the face of the emerging situation. In fact, it should be escalated and with that intent the government of India brought a revised (vaccination) policy. We believe and are confident that will bring in more acceleration,” Paul said.

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