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There can’t be shortage of Polio vaccine; Serum Institute can make it: CEO Adar Poonawalla

Apr 05,2024

New Delhi: Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII) is ready to ramp up capacity of injectable poliomyelitis vaccine (IPV) to fill up the vacuum caused by France’s Sanofi’s shuttering of manufacturing plants in India. In an interview to Vikas Dandekar and Teena Thacker, SII CEO Adar Poonawalla said the company gives half of the total 20 million doses of IPV to the government’s immunisation programme.

With SII currently being the sole supplier for IPV, he said it will take 3-4 months notice to provide additional doses of the vaccine. Edited excerpts:

Sanofi has already closed its manufacturing sites in India. Have you got any heads up from the government yet to fill in the gap?

Typically, for these vaccines they have a tendering process. When the next tendering process starts, we will certainly supply and we have done this in the past when other manufacturers have stopped supplies or shut down facilities. We can supply any quantities of the vaccine that they may be in shortage of. We have ample supply coming from Dutch facility-Bilthoven Biologicals (BBio) where we import the bulk and we fill it in India.

Yes, this is absolutely right and I agree with Sanofi that it is not viable because the price is so low. It just doesn’t make sense for most companies to make vaccines and supply at the current prices.SII has chosen to do it only as a service to the nation and this is very important to note. If we were only looking at it commercially, we would have stopped making this product a long time back. This is very important and we’re selling it at cost. In fact, at the moment, we are selling IPV below our cost. If there was another alternative, I would happily not make it.

We’ve been supplying around 50 per cent and Sanofi has been doing around 50 per cent. And now with them shutting down, we will pretty much be the only supplier for injectable polio vaccine till some other Indian companies also make it after a few years. In light of that, and with this in mind, we have made sure that we have enough stock for the Indian population as and when the health ministry floats new tenders or asks us for any extra vaccine, we can give it with 3 months’ notice.

Sanofi is under the obligation and commitment to fulfil their orders. They have made a statement that they will fulfil their commitments and if they can’t, then we are always there to support the health ministry and give them additional vaccines. But the ministry has to tell us. It’s not fair for me to say what they should do. Or what Sanofi should do. So let’s wait for a few months and see. But the main thing I wanted to clarify is that there is no shortage for the country of this vaccine because Serum can make it and it’s available.

It will take at least 3-4 months from the time I receive a phone call or a written order. We have been making this product for the last 10 years since we acquired the company in the Netherlands. India started procuring IPV only a few years ago. Since then, we have been the 50 per cent supplier, and the quantity is not very large. Around 20-25 million doses a year is what the government takes. So we were supplying 10 -12 million doses, and now our production is much higher, so if the government needs 20-25 million doses from us, we can easily give it.

Source: Healthworld

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