Serum Institute of India’s CEO Adar Poonawalla has warned there won’t be enough Covid-19 vaccines available in the world till 2024 at the earliest, according to a media report on Monday.
“It’s going to take four to five years until everyone gets the vaccine on this planet,” said Poonawalla to Financial Times.
The CEO of the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer has estimated that if the Covid-19 shot is a two-dose vaccine — such as measles or rotavirus — the world will need 15 billion doses, reported FT.
The Pune-based pharma giant has partnered with five international pharmaceutical firms, including AstraZeneca and Novavax, to develop a Covid-19 vaccine and committed to producing one billion doses, of which it has pledged half to India. Moreover, SII may also partner with Russia’s Gamaleya Research Institute to manufacture the Sputnik vaccine.
He said that the commitment far exceeded the capacity of other vaccine producers. “I know the world wants to be optimistic on it . . . [but] I have not heard of anyone coming even close to that [level] right now,” he told FT.
Poonawalla’s comments come just a day after India’s Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said that while there has been no date fixed on the availability of a potential Covid-19 vaccine, chances are it may be ready by the first quarter of 2021.
He assured the vaccine will be first made available to those who need it the most, irrespective of their paying capacity.
“Issues like vaccine security, cost, equity, cold-chain requirements, production timelines etc., are also been discussed intensely,” he stated.
On the availability of the vaccine and its authorization, Vardhan informed that Centre is considering emergency authorization of COVID-19 vaccination especially in the case of senior citizens and people working in high-risk settings. “This shall be done after a consensus has been reached”, he said, according to an official statement.
To allay fears regarding the safety aspect of the vaccines, he said, “I shall be the first to offer myself for receiving COVID vaccine if people have a trust deficit.”
Furthermore, the Financial Times also reported that as part of SII’s agreement with AstraZeneca, the firm will aim to produce vaccine doses that cost around $3 for 68 countries and under its agreement with Novavax, for 92 countries.
Last week, AstraZeneca PLC had paused the trial of coronavirus vaccine (recombinant) as a volunteer developed an unexplained illness. It was also reported that the clinical trials had been put on hold in other countries including USA, UK, Brazil and South Africa.
Following the developments, India’s top drugs regulator had asked SII to suspend any new recruitment in phase two and three clinical trials for COVID-9 vaccine till further orders.
Serum Institute of India is the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer by volume, producing 1.5 billion doses of vaccines annually for use in more than 170 countries to protect against many infectious diseases, such as polio, measles and influenza.
Meanwhile, the global death toll from the coronavirus has risen to 929,000 with 29 million infections on Monday. Due to the fallout of the pandemic, a worldwide race for a vaccine is underway, with nine companies already in late-stage Phase 3 trials.