CEO of Serum Institute of India(SII), Adar Poonawalla received death threats allegedly from the most powerful people of the country, including chief ministers, business leaders, and others in positions of power to procure instant supplies of Covishield Vaccine. Post receiving these phone calls, Poonawalla left the country with his family and moved to London. This happened days after Home Ministry provided him Y-category security.
The head of the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer complained of being ‘vilified and blamed’ for the vaccine shortage. He says, “India is likely to face a vaccine shortage for the next few months. The capacity will increase to 100 million doses only by July 2021 from the current 60-70 million a month.” In an interview, he also said, “There were no orders, we did not think we needed to make more than 1 billion doses a year.” Hence, he did not expand capacity.
Earlier this month, as per Poonawalla’s request, the Indian government gave him an advanced loan of Rs3,000 crore ($400 million) to ramp up production and “Y” level security on April 29, which meant that two personal CRPF commandos would accompany him at all times, and an armed guard would keep a vigil at his home.
He hinted at starting a new vaccine production unit in the UK but also assured that he’ll be back in India soon. Meanwhile, according to him, vaccine production in Pune is in full swing.
A distressed Poonawalla also said, “The level of expectation and aggression is really unprecedented. It’s overwhelming. Everyone feels they should get the vaccine. They can’t understand why anyone else should get it before them.” He also added, “I’m staying here an extended time because I don’t want to go back to that situation…Everything falls on my shoulders but I can’t do it alone…I don’t want to be in a situation where you are just trying to do your job, and just because you can’t supply the needs of X, Y or Z you really don’t want to guess what they are going to do…”
Experts are of the strong belief that India should have considered boosting manufacturing capacity earlier and secured enough vaccine shots despite demands or no. “It is absolutely essential that you need to have something to deliver, it’s common sense,” Chandrakant Lahariya, New Delhi-based public health expert, told The Financial Times. She further added that the government has not been transparent in its vaccine policy.