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Bangladesh reports new record 78 dies and 5,819 cases WHO slams vaccine imbalance between rich, poor nations

Serum’s Adar Poonawalla warns of delays as US prioritizes Pfizer

Health & Lifestyle || shiningbd

Published: 16:57, 5 March 2021  
Serum’s Adar Poonawalla warns of delays as US prioritizes Pfizer

Adar Poonawalla is the Chairman and CEO of Serum Institute of India Ltd (file)

The head of the world’s largest vaccine maker and the chief scientist of the World Health Organization said coronavirus vaccine makers face a global shortage of the raw materials needed to produce the inoculations.

Adar Poonawalla, Managing Director of Serum Institute of India Ltd. – which is licensed to produce hundreds of millions of Covid-19 vaccines from AstraZeneca Plc and Novavax Inc. – told a World Bank panel on Thursday that a US law would block the export of certain key items, including bags and filters, will likely cause serious bottlenecks. Soumya Swaminathan of WHO added that there were shortages of vials, glass, plastic, and caps required by these companies.

“The Novavax vaccine, for which we are a major manufacturer, needs these products from the United States,” Poonawalla said. “If we talk about capacity building all over the world, the sharing of these essential raw materials is going to become a critical limiting factor – no one has been able to solve this problem so far.”

This disruption of supply issues emerged after the Biden administration announced plans to use the Defense Production Act to increase supplies needed to manufacture Pfizer Inc. vaccines. Last year, Pfizer a slashed production targets after the US drugmaker struggled to get all the materials it needed to produce the vaccines on a large scale, a reminder that the world depends on mass manufacturing at a speed and scale unprecedented for a pandemic.

“This is something that would require a discussion with the Biden administration to explain to them that there is enough for everyone,” Poonawalla said. “We’re talking about having free global access to vaccines, but if we can’t get the raw materials out of the United States, that’s going to be a serious limiting factor.

Even under ideal conditions, receiving injections into the arms of 7.8 billion people would test the delicate choreography of global supply chains in a peacetime fashion. Indeed, vaccine production relies on a complex global value chain of raw materials and components.

“There is a shortage of materials, of products that you need to make vaccines,” Swaminathan said. “This is again where you need a global agreement and coordination not to ban exports.”

She said WHO’s vaccine partners, the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations and the Developing Country Vaccine Manufacturers Network, will meet on Monday and Tuesday next week to discuss the issues.

Despite Poonawalla’s warnings, he said Serum had distributed 90 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine in 51 countries in the past two months after obtaining emergency clearance from Indian regulators in early January – a record rate for the country.

ShiningBD/MB