India may resume exports of Covishield vaccines by the year-end, said Adar Poonawalla, chief executive of Serum Institute of India (SII), the world’s largest supplier of vaccines.
The government banned Covid vaccine exports in April amid the country’s devastating second wave. Covishield is a version of the Covid vaccine co-developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca Plc.
In an interview, Poonawalla said India is nearing a level where there is sufficient stocks to sustain the ongoing nationwide vaccination drive is available. SII is also “significantly” ramping up its capacities, he said.
“The export restrictions were there temporarily to take care of our nation. In the next month or two, we expect it will ease. Because if you look at how many vaccines we have delivered and others in India have delivered, we are coming close to a point where there is more than enough vaccine stock, especially with us scaling up even further for this year,” Poonawalla said. “So, in the next two months, we do expect slow easement of exports. But you have to also check with the government; ultimately it is their decision, and we will go by what they see as appropriate,” he added.
Hindustan Times reported earlier this week that the Joe Biden administration has asked India to relax export curbs on Covid-19 vaccines.
Poonawalla’s comments come at a time when global pressure is building on countries like India from the World Health Organization (WHO), among other global organizations, to ease curbs on vaccine exports.
Poonawalla said with India now having four covid vaccine candidates—Covishield, Covaxin, Sputnik V and ZyCov-D—that have received approval , supply constraints should ease.
Serum Institute alone is manufacturing 150 million doses per month, which is expected to rise to 200 million doses by October, he said.
Meanwhile, SII announced on Friday a strategic alliance with Biocon Biologics Ltd (BBL) wherein the companies will collaborate for vaccine manufacturing, as well as distribution of vaccines and other monoclonal antibodies.
As part of the partnership, BBLwill offer approximately 15% stake to SII’s unit at a post-money valuation of $4.9 billion. In return, it will get committed access to 100 million vaccine doses per annum for 15 years, primarily from Serum Institute’s upcoming vaccine facility in Pune.