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No hope of Covid vaccine to everyone before 2024

Lack of sophisticated cold chain system will hamper vaccination drive in India
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Lack of sophisticated cold chain system will hamper vaccination drive in India 

Highlights

Serum Institute CEO says it’s going to take 4 to 5 years until everyone gets the vaccine on this planet

Hyderabad: Dashing hopes of early vaccination against deadly coronavirus, Serum Institute of India, the world's largest vaccine producer, made it amply clear that sufficient quantity of Covid-19 vaccine would not be available to immunise everybody in the world until the end of 2024.

In an interview with the London-based Financial Times, Adar Poonawalla, Chief Executive Officer of Pune-based Serum Institute of India, revealed that pharma companies were not ramping up production capacity faster to be able to immunise the world population in less time.

"It's going to take four to five years until everyone gets the vaccine on this planet," Poonawalla was quoted as saying in the interview. He earlier said that the world would require 15 billion doses if the Covid vaccine is a two-dose immunisation, as is the case with measles or rotavirus.

Serum Institute partnered with five global pharmaceutical companies, including AstraZeneca and Novavax, to develop a Covid vaccine. It committed to produce one billion doses, out of which it promised 50 per cent to India. The vaccine maker may also tie up with Russia's Gamaleya Research Institute to produce its Sputnik vaccine.

Poonawalla's comments on the vaccine production and distribution are crucial, in the wake of the Serum Institute taking on the responsibility of manufacturing Covid vaccine for the majority of the developing world. His remarks came a day after Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said a vaccine against the coronavirus disease would be ready by early next year. "It may be ready by the first quarter of next year," he had said.

Further, there are also concerns that huge pre-orders from Europe and US will result in developing countries being pushed to the bottom of the list.

Poonawalla further said that the commitments had outdone the production capacity of vaccine manufacturers. "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 said.

As part of its agreement with AstraZeneca, the company will produce Covid-19 vaccine doses that cost closed $3 for 68 countries and under its deal with Novavax, for 92 countries.

Poonawalla, who is the son of Cyrus Poonawalla, India's seventh-richest billionaire, minimised the risks over the halt in AstraZeneca trials last week after a participant fell, describing it as "very normal".

"We're doing a fund raising and diluting equity so that we have enough capital to manage the raw materials and equipment we need in the next one or two years to operate at this scale," he told FT. Poonawalla had in April ordered 600m glass vials and other particulars to gear up for the mass manufacturing of the Covid-19 vaccine.

However, he expressed worries over distribution in India, which is registering a rapid rise in the number of coronaviruses infections, and said that the process would be difficult as there is an absence of a sophisticated cold chain system to transport the vaccine safely to its 1.4 billion people.

"I still don't see a proper plan on paper to do that in India beyond 400 m doses," he was quoted as saying.

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