Serum Institute of India (SII) CEO Adar Poonawalla said that the existing production capacity to manufacture Covishield, one of the two Covid vaccines being administered in India is "very stressed, to put it frankly".
Poonawalla said the SII, which produces between 60 and 65 million doses per month presently, has so far given around 100 million doses to the Indian government and exported 60 million, reports the NDTV.
He added that that SII is "still short of being able to supply to every Indian" who needs the vaccine.
"The globe needs this vaccine... we are prioritising the needs of India (but) we are still short of being able to supply to every Indian," Poonawalla said during an interview.
He added that SII needed Rs 3,000 crore - a shortfall linked to the deal with the government to sell a doses at a heavy discount - in order to ramp up capacity needed to scale up production by June.
"We're supplying in India at approximately R150-160. The average price is around $20 (Rs 1,500)... (but) because of the Modi government's request, we are providing at subsidised rates... It is not that we're not making profits... but we are not making super profits, which is key to re-investing," he said.
"This (the amount needed) would be roughly Rs 3,000 crores. The process takes 85 days, so it would be just under three months before we scale up operations," he said, adding that he had written to the centre on this subject, failing which SII would approach the banks for a loan.
Adar Poonawalla said that even if SII could increase its capacity - to around 100 million doses per month - India needed other manufacturers to also scale up in order to meet requirements. He also said export bans - last month the centre said it was pausing major Covishield shipments - and the "first claim" deal with India were difficult to explain abroad, where it is sold at a substantially higher cost per dose.
The SII chief also said he was working towards making Russia's Sputnik-V, which is expected to get permission for use in India any day. He also said that Codagenix would enter trials soon.
"Codagenix is going to be a single-dose nasal vaccine that is a potential gamechanger... will take time to develop.. we have to make sure the delivery mechanism delivers just the right amount of vaccine around the mucosa to prevent the virus from entering the system," Poonawalla explained.
"We're hoping it becomes super convenient to administer and also cuts transmission when you do get infected... that's the advantage of the nasal vaccine," he said.