Adar Poonawalla, the head of the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, Serum Institute of India (SII), recently gave an interview to a London newspaper The Times.
Here are the 15 most shocking revelations made by him with regard to COVID-19 vaccine production in India:
- Adar Poonawalla claims that he has been getting threats over phone calls. He said, “The phone calls are the worst thing, they are incessant and very menacing.”
- When asked about where the calls come from, Poonawalla mentioned that it comes from the Chief Ministers of Indian states, heads of business conglomerates, and others, and they mostly demand instant supplies of Covishield, the name by which the AstraZeneca vaccine is known in India.
“Threats is an understatement. The level of expectation and aggression is really unprecedented. It’s overwhelming. Everyone feels they should get the vaccine. They can’t understand why anyone else should get it before them.”
3. The calls begin cordially, but when Poonawalla explains that he cannot possibly meet the callers’ demands,
“The conversations go in a very different direction.”
4. “They are saying if you don’t give us the vaccine, it’s not going to be good . . . It’s not foul language. It’s the tone. It’s the implication of what they might do if I don’t comply. It’s taking control. It’s coming over and basically surrounding the place and not letting us do anything unless we give in to their demands.”
5. The threatening phone calls and throngs of desperate people who gather outside the Serum Institute of India’s campus located in India are the reasons for Poonawalla’s arrival in London, where he joined his wife and two children.
“I’m staying here an extended time because I don’t want to go back to that situation.”
6. Poonawalla is very desperate about the situation.
“Everything falls on my shoulders, but I can’t do it alone . . . I don’t want to be in a situation where you are just trying to do your job, and just because you can’t supply the needs of X, Y or Z you really don’t want to guess what they are going to do.”
7. He also said that he is planning to start vaccine production in countries outside India. It should be noted that Lord Udny-Lister, one of the top aides of Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, visited the Serum Institute in March.
“There’s going to be an announcement in the next few days.”
8. On fighting COVID-19 in India, Adar Poonawalla commented,
“I thought, ‘We’ve done our bit. We’d struggled through 2020 to get everything ready. I thought I could put my feet up and take a vacation, but it’s been the exact opposite. It’s been chaotic.”
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9. Poonawalla called COVID-19 raging like a ” tornado” in India and said that its healthcare system is collapsing.
“I don’t think even God could have forecasted it was going to get this bad.”
10. When he was asked about the reasons why there was a surge in COVID-19 cases in the second wave in India, Poonawalla said,
“If I give you the right answer, or any answer, my head would be chopped off . . . I can’t comment on the elections or Kumbh Mela. It’s too sensitive.”
11. Poonawalla completely denied all the charges related to profiteering and called them incorrect.
“It’s very stressful. There’s no other way to describe it. There’s no silver bullet.”
12. He acknowledges that his institute will make money from the higher price, but insists that Covishield will still be “the most affordable vaccine on the planet”
13. Poonawalla said,
“I’ve always had this sense of responsibility to India and the world because of the vaccines we were making, but never have we made a vaccine so needed in terms of saving lives.”
14. Poonawalla also said that he had,
“a proud sense and feeling that people were depending on me, and I was doing my best to save and protect the nation and the world”, but he also complained that despite all the “sweat and tears”, instead of being “appreciated and supported”, “we are being vilified and blamed.”
15. He proudly says that “We have done the best we can without cutting corners or doing anything wrong or profiteering. I’ll wait for history to judge.” He also hopes that other Indian vaccine manufacturers will step forward in the coming months so that “people forget about him.”
Adar Poonawalla had an important business meeting with UK stakeholders and he has confirmed that he will be returning to India in a few days.
Image Credits: Google Images
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