India to receive 220m Serum Covid-19 shots in coming months, in talks with Pfizer over vaccine approval

Pfizer's CEO Albert Bourla said the company's vaccine is not registered in India although the application was submitted months ago.
Pfizer's CEO Albert Bourla said the company's vaccine is not registered in India although the application was submitted months ago.PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI (BLOOMBERG, REUTERS) - Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine maker, will deliver 220 million doses to India’s vaccine-starved federal and state governments over the next few months, which can cover 8 per cent of the country’s population.

The Narendra Modi-led central government will receive 110 million doses of Covishield while the state governments and hospitals will receive the rest, the Pune-based manufacturer said in a statement on Twitter Monday (May 3), without specifying a definite delivery date.

“Vaccine manufacturing is a specialized process, it’s therefore not possible to ramp up production overnight,” Serum’s Chief Executive Officer Adar Poonawalla said in the statement.

Producing enough doses for all adults in India, given the huge population of 1.4 billion people, is “not an easy task,” he said.

Meanwhile, Pfizer is in discussions with the Indian government seeking an "expedited approval pathway" for its Covid-19 vaccine, its chief executive officer Albert Bourla said on LinkedIn on Monday, announcing a donation of medicines worth more than US$70 million (S$93 million).

"Unfortunately, our vaccine is not registered in India although our application was submitted months ago," he said.

"We are currently discussing with the Indian government an expedited approval pathway to make our Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine available for use in the country."

India, which saw its daily surge in new infections breach 400,000 cases on Saturday alongside steadily rising death toll, is struggling to contain the world’s fastest-growing Covid outbreak that has stretched its health care system to breaking point.

Vaccines, often cited as longer term solution to tapering the virus curve, have also been in short supply, exacerbated by the inability to build a stockpile in the early months of the year when the outbreak was ebbing and before the deadly second wave hit.

Serum has delivered more than 150 million Covid-19 shots out of the total 260 million doses ordered so far, according to the statement which did not specify the government or agency that ordered these batches and received them.