Serum Institute of India (SII) CEO Adar Poonawalla said on Wednesaday that the vaccine manufacturer will prioritise India's vaccine needs for now, but could start small exports in June-July.
Amid a steep rise in Covid cases in India and reports of shortage, the Modi government paused exports under its "Vaccine Maitri" programme. Poonawalla says that situation will stand at least till July, reports the NDTV.
India is due to start a new round of vaccinations to from 1 May that will include all above 18, it will require nearly two million more doses a month.
SII on Wednesday said it has borrowed from banks to begin ramp-up of its vaccine immediately instead of waiting for the government's aid to arrive. The announcement of bank loan came after the Indian government announced Rs4,500 crore to boost production of the Covishield and Covaxin vaccines.
"The Rs3,000 crore amount we keep seeing in the media has been sanctioned. We believe it will come to us very soon. We have not waited but borrowed from the banks to get on with the ramp-up, with the assumption that this funding from the government will reach us very soon...this week," Adar Poonawalla said during an interview.
"There is no clarity on exports and we also right now feel that we should not look at exports for two months during these cases. Maybe in June-July, we could start looking at small exports starting again. Right now, we are going to prioritise the needs of the nation first," he added.
Poonawalla said he expects to be able to provide 100 million doses per month after July.
The SII CEO recently reached out to US President Joe Biden in a tweet, urging him to lift the embargo on the export of raw materials needed for the production of vaccines in India.
"The US government responded through the media. We've seen reports of them saying they acknowledge and understand the issue. They are looking into it but (there is) no opening up as yet for the raw materials that they know very well exactly that are required...," he said.
He added that this problem would not impact prices or manufacturing of Covishield in India but could potentially impact Covovax, a vaccine which should be in the Indian market in the next three months.
"No, this will not affect our price because we can find alternative suppliers to the US, but that is just taking more time. And that will affect the stockpiling of Covovax, not Covishield, luckily," he said.
Covovax is Serum's version of the protein-based Covid vaccine developed by Novavax.