India’s vaccine czar leaves country due to “unprecedented” threats | Daily News

India’s vaccine czar leaves country due to “unprecedented” threats

Serum Institute Chief Executive Officer Adar Poonawalla
Serum Institute Chief Executive Officer Adar Poonawalla

India’s COVID-19 situation is so dire that the rich are fleeing the country. And among them is vaccine czar Adar Poonawalla.

Ponawalla, the CEO of Serum Institute of India (SII) that manufactures the AstraZeneca vaccine, has moved to the UK with his family for “an extended period of time,” according to an interview in The Times. He did so just as the UK put India on its “red list” and banned all travellers from the country.

Poonawalla said he made the move because there was a grave threat to his life in India.

A man runs to escape heat emitting from the multiple funeral pyres of COVID-19 victims at a crematorium in the outskirts of New Delhi, India, 

These alleged threats likely come from the fact that India is yet to vaccinate a large majority of its population, and vaccines are in short supply. SII’s Covishield is the more common vaccine in the country, and Poonawalla has had to balance international contracts and domestic commitments in the past two months. India’s central government had granted Poonawalla “Y” level security on April 29, which meant that two personal security officers would accompany him at all times, and an armed guard would keep a vigil at his home.

Earlier this month, as per his request, the Indian government had also given a “stressed” Poonawalla an advanced loan of Rs.3,000 crore ($400 million) to ramp up production.

In a tweet on April 16, he also requested US president Joe Biden to lift the embargo on vaccine raw materials, making many believe that manufacturing of Covishield was delayed due to the issue. However, he later clarified that this embargo was only impacting the production of Covovax, the Indian brand of Novovax vaccine.

India recently “liberalised” its vaccine policy, allowing Poonawalla to sell Covishield directly to the states at a premium of Rs. 300 per dose (as against the central government price of Rs150).

With this policy, Poonawalla can sell half of his stock directly to the states and private hospitals, which has led to a scramble for an already scarce vaccine supply.