Serum Institute, Bharat Biotech take joint pledge to provide global access to COVID-19 vaccines

After a public showdown, Serum Institute of India (SII) and Bharat Baiotech on Tuesday vowed to bury the hatchet and took a "joint pledge to provide global access for our COVID-19 vaccines."

The two companies issued a joint statemeent after a controversy over remarks by Serum Institute of India (SII) CEO, Adar Poonawalla, hinting that Covaxin was “safe like water”, in an apparenet jibe at the Bharat Biotech's vaccine.

SII's Adar Poonawala and Bharat Biotech chairman, Dr Krishna Ella, today "communicated their combined intent to develop manufacture and supply the COVID-19 vaccines for India and globally."

"They said, the more important task in front of them is saving the lives and livelihoods of populations in India and the world. Vaccines are a global public health good and they have the power to save lives and accelerate the return to economic normalcy at the earliest," the companies said in a joint statement.

"Now that two COVID-19 vaccines have been issued EUA (emergency use authorization) in India, the focus is on manufacturing, supply and distribution, such that populations that need it the most receive high quality, safe and efficacious vaccines. Both our Companies are fully engaged in this activity and consider it our duty to the nation and the world at large to ensure a smooth rollout of vaccines. Each of our Companies continue their COVID-19 vaccines development activities as planned," they said.

The Drug Controller General of India on Sunday approved the Oxford COVID-19 vaccine Covishield, manufactured by the Serum Institute and indigenously developed Covaxin of Bharat Biotech, for restricted emergency use in the country, paving the way for a massive inoculation drive.

Poonawalla had told NDTV that only three COVID-19 vaccines - Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Oxford-AstraZeneca - had passed all the scientific evaluations while rest were “safe like water”.

Covaxin has not yet cleared the Phase III trials and is yet to release efficacy data.

Industry experts and some opposition leaders have expressed concern over the absence of Phase 3 trial data on Covaxin and have questioned the drug regulator's move to approve the vaccine for emergecny use.

Krishna Ella, chairman of Bharat Biotech, rejected criticism on Monday and said it has done "200 percent honest clinical trials" and yet it was receiving "backlash".

Bharat Biotech was the only company to have a Bio Safety Level 3 (BSL- 3) production facility, he noted.

"We do 200 per cent honest clinical trials and yet we receive a backlash. If I am wrong, tell me. Some companies have branded me 'water'. I want to deny that. We are scientists," he said.

Poonawalla tweeted on Tuesday that a joint public statement clearing up any recent miscommunication with regards to Bharat Biotech will be made.

He also clarified that exports of vaccines are permitted to all countries.

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