Adar Poonawalla urges US Prez to lift ban on export of vaccine raw material

Adar Poonawalla, CEO, Serum Institute of India
Adar Poonawalla, the head of the world's largest vaccine maker (by doses), on Friday urged the US President Joe Biden to lift embargo on export of vaccine raw materials. The restriction has hit production of vaccines in India.

In a tweet posted on social media tagging the US President, Serum Institute of India (SII) chief said “Respected @POTUS, if we are to truly unite in beating this virus, on behalf of the vaccine industry outside the US, I humbly request you to lift the embargo of raw material exports out of the U.S. so that vaccine production can ramp up. Your administration has the details.”

It imports raw materials like filters, bags, media solutions from the US.

About a week back Poonawalla had told Business Standard that the US restrictions were hampering the production scale up of the Novavax vaccine at Pune. The firm has collaborated with US company Novavax to make its vaccine here, supply to Covax at $3 per dose, and also supply to India and globally. SII has also started bridging clinical trials of the vaccine here.

SII’s target production is 50 million doses of Novavax vaccine per month once it reaches peak capacity.

“The US has invoked the Defence Act and banned export of raw materials. This is as good as banning vaccines. All vaccine producers are facing difficulties because of this,” Poonawalla had said.  It has already stalled the Novavax vaccine’s production. “Stock-piling of Novavax would happen to the tune of 50 per cent more if we had access to US raw materials. Till the month of April, it was not really coming in the way. From this month onwards, whatever we stockpile of Novavax would be half of what we could do, had it not been for US restrictions,” he had said.

SII is now working on developing new vendors for raw materials it imports from the US like filters, bags, certain media solutions, etc.

Sources also indicated that Bharat Biotech is facing challenges in procuring the adjuvant used in the vaccine. Bharat Biotech is using an adjuvant from Kansas-based ViroVax for its vaccine. Adjuvants are pharmacological or immunological agents that improve the immune response of a vaccine. They may be added to a vaccine to produce more antibodies and tp ensure longer lasting immunity, thus minimising the dose of antigen needed.

Krishna Ella, CMD, Bharat Biotech has said several raw materials to make vaccines were imported. The preservatives come from Germany and some raw material from the US. 

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