Adar Poonawalla is the Chief Executive Officer of Serum Institute of India (SII), the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer. SII has emerged as a key player in India’s fight against COVID-19 after partnering with AstraZeneca to produce COVID-19 vaccine in India. Poonawala joined SII in 2011 and focused on exploring the international market with new products licence followed by pre-qualified certification by World Health Organization (WHO). This allowed SII to supply the doses to United Nations agencies that include PAHO and UNICEF. It was the year 2011 when he became the CEO of SII and also became one of the board members of the global vaccine alliance, GAVI.
Serum Institute of India partnered with British-Swedish multinational pharmaceutical company, AstraZeneca, for producing COVID-19 vaccine Covisheild, locally in India. Serum Institute of India has declared a target of providing 1 billion doses of the vaccine by the end of 2021 for India as well as other middle and low-income countries. After successful clinical trials, SII sought emergency approval for the vaccine in December 2020. In March 2021, an agreement was signed by Adar Poonawalla to supply some doses of the vaccine to the United Kingdom.
In 2020, as India eased lockdown restrictions, vaccine doses were exported by SII to lower and middle-income countries under the GAVI alliance. SII, however, faced a backslash soon after, as India witnessed a second wave of COVID-19 due to a severe variant of COVID-19.
In the first week of May 2021, Adar Poonawalla fled to England to escape death threats from people. He was accused of holding up vaccines as India faced a shortage during the second wave of COVID-19. “Threats” is an understatement. The level of expectation and aggression is really unprecedented”, he added.
Adar Poonawalla received Y category security from the Indian government as he received threats over the shortage of vaccines in India.
As many people in India criticised SII amid shortage of vaccines, Adar Poonawalla released a statement with a clarification. He stated, “We have never expected vaccines at the cost of the people in India”. He urged the public and leaders to stay united at the time of crisis to defeat the pandemic.
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