“Just as a precaution, at risk we have done it so that people have Covishield as a choice if they want it,” Poonawalla told PTI on restarting manufacturing of the vaccine.
He further said Serum Institute of India (SII) will make 6-7 million doses of Covishield available in 90 days and it could take up to nine months to further build up the stock based on demand.
The company had stopped manufacturing of Covishield in December 2021.
The restarting of manufacturing of Covishield by SII comes at a time when the number of COVID-19 cases in the country is rising again.
According to Union Health Ministry data updated on Wednesday, India registered a single-day rise of 7,830 new coronavirus infections, the highest in 223 days, and the count of active cases in the country reached 40,215.
The death toll due to the disease also increased to 5,31,016 with 16 new fatalities being reported – two each in Delhi, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh, and one each in Gujarat, Haryana, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh, and five reconciled by Kerala as per the data updated at 8 am on Wednesday. Reacting to reports of COVID-19 vaccine shortages amid the rising cases, Poonawalla said it’s incorrect to say that there are no stocks and “giving a wrong picture to the people”.
“There is enough stock available from all manufacturers,” he asserted.
On the other hand, he said,”There is no demand…that’s why there is no stock with the hospitals. It is not that the vaccine manufacturers are not interested in making it. We’re interested in making it, if of course the demand is there. That’s a normal standard practice.”
On Covovax which has been approved as a booster dose for 18-years and above, he said, “We have six million doses ready but the demand is exactly zero at the moment.”
Poonawalla asserted that “Covovax is the best booster to take” for adults and elderly as it has “excellent neutralising” antibodies for the Omicron and XBB variants of the virus.
Encouraging people to take the booster dose, he said, “The point I’m trying to make is that the private citizens, who should mask up, and the elderly, especially should come in and pick up the precautionary dose. They have to come and pay for it. They have to pay Rs 225 for the vaccine plus Rs 150 or Rs 200 for the administration charges.
“If that does not happen, there will not be demand from the hospitals to put orders on manufacturers.”
He further said there are also other vaccines approved on the CoWin app and SII’s Covovax vaccine also got approved two days back, adding people just need to go to vaccination centres to get the booster dose.
(With inputs from health)