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World’s largest vaccine producer warns of raw material shortage 

Adar Poonawalla, head of the Serum Institute of India, repeated warnings that just half of global population will be vaccinated in the next two years.

Export curbs by the United States on raw materials critical for Covid-19 vaccines will slow down global efforts to inoculate people, the head of the world’s largest vaccine producer has warned.

Adar Poonawalla, chief executive of the Serum Institute of India, expressed concern that his company and others would face a shortage of key filters following the Biden administration’s decision to slap export controls on crucial supplies in order to step up vaccine production in the US.

“We are all hoping here in this part of the world that [Biden] looks at a more global perspective and allows a relaxation, even if it is a temporary one, for filters, bags and these key raw materials that are only sourced from the US,” he said during an interview with BBC’s Hard Talk.

Mr. Poonawalla said the supplies were required by manufacturers to vaccinate the global community.

Last week, the White House said it had used the Korean War-era US Defense Production Act – which prevents export of materials to priorities local production – to help drug-maker Merck make Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine.

The Serum Institute is producing the vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and Astra Zeneca at its facility in Pune in western India.

The company has already dispatched 95 million doses, half of which is being supplied to India.

He also called for global harmonization on regulation for quicker delivery of the vials.

“If they all get together, India, China, Russia, US, UK and other regions then we will be able to shave off months between having the product ready and it being shipped out,” he said.

Each regulator required data to be submitted in differing formats adding weeks to the process.

He repeated warnings that it was unlikely that by 2022 half the world’s population would be vaccinated against Covid-19.

“It’s going to take at least two years before we reach a 50 per cent mark especially now when we see the kind of capacity available and the way countries are able to vaccinate at a certain speed and pace.”

Researchers have said that not all 7.8 billion people on Earth must be vaccinated to halt the pandemic. Studies show that between 25 to 50 per cent of the population, at least two billion people, need to be vaccinated to reach sufficient herd immunity.

Mr. Poonawalla said he had begun building a facility to produce vaccines for Covid-19 variants and as forward planning for the next pandemic.

This was in reference to comments by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates who has urged for a global reserve to cope with the next pandemic.

The Serum Institute has ambitious plans for a factory that could make a billion doses within months but needs major funding from governments.

“I will eventually go to governments and offer this to different regional governments so they don’t have to build their own facilities which might become too costly and impossible for them to do,” Mr. Poonawalla said.

“That is exactly what I’m planning to do, god forbid, for the next pandemic or even as this pandemic continues and drags on with various different mutated strains where you might need new vaccines to be produced at short notice.”

Source : The National News

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