On Saturday, Serum Institute of India (SII) CEO Adar Poonawalla, took to Twitter and asked if the government will have Rs 80,000 crore over the next one year to buy and distribute the COVID-19 vaccine.
For the unversed, Pune-based SII is the world's largest manufacturer of vaccines and is producing the potential coronavirus vaccine developed by Oxford University in collaboration with British-Swedish pharma company AstraZeneca.
"Quick question; will the government of India have 80,000 crores available, over the next one year? Because that's what @MoHFW_INDIA needs, to buy and distribute the vaccine to everyone in India. This is the next concerning challenge we need to tackle," he tweeted and tagged the Prime Minister's Office.
"I ask this question because we need to plan and guide, vaccine manufacturers both in India and overseas to service the needs of our country in terms of procurement and distribution," Poonawalla wrote in another tweet.
Meanwhile, Ashwani Mahajan who is the national co-convener of Swadeshi Jagaran Manch which is affiliated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), has on Sunday said that Poonawala could be "forced to produce vaccine free from exploitative royalty".
Taking to Twitter, he wrote, "May it be known to you @adarpoonawalla that India’s Patent Act has a section on Compulsory Licensing and we can force you and your peers to produce vaccine free from exploitative royalty."
Mahajan, meanwhile, reacted to the Free Press Journal piece and said that there is compulsory licensing in place, which can force production of vaccine free from exploitative royalty. "Let me put the things in right perspective. What I have said is we have compulsory licensing in place, which can force production of vaccine, free from exploitative royalty (not produce for free)," he tweeted.
Earlier, Poonawalla had said that as per the arrangement with AstraZeneca, SII will be making one billion doses of COVISHIELD over the next one year for India and other low-and-middle-income countries (GAVI countries).
SII had also said it will not take profit from the vaccine. "In the interest of public health and as one of the largest vaccine producers it is our responsibility to make the vaccine affordable for the public at-large," Poonawalla had said.
(The article has been updated after Ashwani Mahajan's response)