Poonawalla told a World Bank panel that the US law blocking the export of key items such as bags and filters was likely to cause serious bottlenecks
Adar Poonawalla, the chief executive officer (CEO) of Serum Institute of India Ltd (SII), said on Thursday that the manufacturers of COVID-19 vaccines were facing a global shortage of raw materials because of a US law blocking the export of certain key items. SII is the world’s biggest vaccine manufacturer.
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The concerns came up after the Joe Biden administration announced plans to use the Defense Production Act to boost supplies needed to make Pfizer’s vaccines. Last year, Pfizer had to scale back its production targets after it ran into difficulties in securing all the materials needed to produce the vaccines on a large scale, even as the world was depending on mass manufacturing to end the coronavirus pandemic.
Poonawalla, whose SII is licenced to produce millions of COVID-19 vaccines of AstraZeneca and Novavax, told a World Bank panel on Thursday that the US law blocking the export of key items such as bags and filters was likely to cause serious bottlenecks.
“The Novavax vaccine, of which we’re a major manufacturer, needs these items from the US,” Poonawalla said. “This would need some discussion with the Biden administration,” he added. “We’re talking about having free global access to vaccines but if we can’t get the raw materials, that’s a serious limiting factor,” Bloomberg quoted the SII CEO.
Soumya Swaminathan, the chief scientist of World Health Organization (WHO), too, expressed similar concerns. She said that there were shortfalls of vials, glass, plastic and stoppers.
Even under ideal conditions, getting injections for 7.8 billion people would test the world’s supply chains in ways unseen in peacetime. That’s because producing a vaccine relies on a complex global value chain.
Swaminathan said global agreement and coordination were needed for not banning exports of materials needed for manufacturing the vaccines. She added that vaccine partners of the WHO, International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations and the Developing Countries Vaccine Manufacturers Network, will hold meetings soon to discuss all these issues.
Poonawalla said that despite the constraints, Serum had distributed 90 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine to 51 countries in the past two months, a record for the company. It was granted emergency authorisation by Indian regulators in early January.
(Edited by : Abhishek Jha)