Serum Institute of India CEO Adar Poonawalla on Friday warned against the return to the business-as-usual approach, saying we “can’t afford to put a price tag on the life of a citizen” as the pandemic is not behind us yet.
The chief executive defended his call for lowering the vaccination gap to six months from the present nine months to ensure that people don’t see again the pains they underwent in the first two waves of the pandemic, and not for making money, as he has made already enough.
“I have also offered vaccines for free to avoid waste, which I wouldn’t have done if my objective is money,” he said.
“My point is that we can’t put a price tag on the life of a person be it an adult or a child. So, taking decisions on time as we did during the second wave is the need of the hour when it comes to booster doses and jabbing the kids.
“But, unfortunately for the key people who are supposed to be taking decisions on time, the committees supposed to be meeting on time, it seems there is no urgency any longer,” Poonawalla said while addressing the Indian economic conclave organised by Times Network here.
“The momentum of the past that brought us so far here is lost. As you said it seems for them, it’s business as usual,” he added.
Poonawalla noted that his company had stopped production from December 31, 2021, just to avoid waste.
He pointed out that there is rising vaccine fatigue among the public as the main reason for the low off-take of the vaccines even after the firm has massively slashed the price from Rs 600 to Rs 225 a dose.
Currently, we are sitting over 200 million vials, he said.
Calling for increased adoption of booster doses, Poonawalla said it is also needed because people need to travel internally and outside, and many countries have made booster doses mandatory for travel.
On the need to bring down the gap between two doses from nine months to 6 months, he said globally, many studies have shown that the antibody goes down when the vaccine gap is increased.
About the vaccine for the 7-11 year-olds, he said they are waiting for the government nod, which has not come in yet despite the Covovax vaccine getting the regulatory approvals long ago, and it has also been in supply to Europe and Australia since long.
Though the government, as a whole, recognises the importance of healthcare, it seems the urgency has been lost, he added.