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Serum Institute CEO claims getting threats from ‘powerful people’ over COVID-19 vaccines

Serum Institute CEO Adar Poonwalla. Photo via Indian Express
  • Serum Institute CEO alleges “powerful people” have been telling him that if he does not provide vaccines then it will “not be good” for him.
  • CEO says he has relocated to the UK in fear of the threats. 
  • Adar Poonawalla says he has moved to London for an “extended time”, does not want to “go back to that situation”.

NEW DELHI: The head of the Serum Institute, the company manufacturing the coronavirus vaccine in India, has relocated to the United Kingdom after allegedly receiving threatening phone calls from some “very powerful” people.

Serum Institute CEO Adar Poonawalla, in an interview with the British newspaper The Times, confessed that has been receiving phone calls from the “most powerful” including Indian chief ministers, business tycoons and others, for instant supplies of Covishield.

“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,” Poonawalla said regarding the phone calls.

The CEO alleged that in the phone calls the “powerful people” have been telling him that if he does not provide the vaccines then it will “not be good” for him.

Read more: COVAX coronavirus vaccines reach more than 100 countries

“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 coming over and basically surrounding the place and not letting us do anything unless we give in to their demands,” alleged the CEO.

Poonawalla said that he had moved to London for an “extended time” as he does not want to “go back to that 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,” said Poonawalla.

However, that was not the only reason to move to the country. The CEO indicated that his move was also linked to business plans to expand vaccine manufacturing to countries outside India.

Read more: COVAX says India legally bound to supply coronavirus vaccines

The Serum Institute is manufacturing the Covishield vaccine for India which is one of the two vaccines that are currently being used in the mass inoculation drive for the world’s second populous country.

Apart from the local supplies, the institute is also one of the major suppliers of the global COVA initiative. Under the initiative, the alliance was supposed to provide vaccines to low-income countries.

Pakistan is one of those countries that were to receive the vaccines. However, in March SII had said it could not be meeting the committed doses because of internal demand in India.

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