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Serum Institute to reduce Covishield production by at least 50% starting next week: Adar Poonawalla

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Serum Institute of India said it is reducing Covishield production by at least 50 percent starting next week as the company has no further orders from the Indian government.

Vaccine manufacturing major Serum Institute of India (SII) on Tuesday said it is reducing Covishield production by at least 50 percent starting next week as the company has no further orders from the Indian government.
In an exclusive interview with CNBC-TV18, Adar Poonawalla, CEO, said, "The company is in a dilemma as supply is more than demand for Covishield and it has to dial down the production. We will complete our existing orders to the government by next week. The company has written to the government for guidance on volumes needed."
Talking about the current stockpile, he said, "SII has 500 million doses of Covishield. Half of that is finished product and half of that is bulk, which can be filled and finished in a matter of two months and it has a shelf life of nine months. It's available on the priority to the Indian government."
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"If the government doesn't need it, SII will start exporting as I mentioned in Q1 of 2020. We have recently explained this to the government and we have been discussing so I think we will wait a few days for them to have their internal discussion and get back to us.
On vaccine efficacy, Poonawalla said, "There is no reason to believe that we won’t have a decent level of protection. If you are double vaccinated with all these mutant variants whether it is delta, Omicron, look at the data we had with Lancet on Delta, we have 81 percent efficacy with the AstraZeneca vaccine Covishield."
On the statement made by Moderna president Stephen, he said, "Not sure of the reasons behind the statement by Moderna manufacturers without sufficient data. Sometimes these kinds of statements can create unnecessary worry and panic. Should be wary of making predictions without proper data."
He said SII can produce 150 million doses of Covovax per month once granted licensure. The company is ready to produce 20-30 million doses per month of Sputnik light. Both vaccines are backed by orders.
Poonawalla further said he has reviewed orders of 400-500 million doses through Covax and has been in touch with various African leaders. Covax was launched last April by Gavi, the World Health Organisation, European Commission and France with the objective to distribute Covid-19 vaccines to lower-and middle-income countries.
Talking about the new variant, he said, "Oxford is working on a new improved version of Covishield. AstraZeneca vaccine to directly target Omicron and we don’t still see the need to launch such a vaccine. However, we may start stockpiling at risk a small quantity of this if the need arises."
About other vaccines on the horizon, Poonawalla said the SII in partnership with Oxford will launch the malaria vaccine by 2023 as the trials are going in Africa. Also, on the pipeline is the HPV vaccine, which prevents cervical cancer in women and the pentavalent meningococcal vaccine, which is a solution for dengue that got derailed because of the COVID crisis.
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