'Congress takes full responsibility of Adar Poonawalla, but...': Nana Patole on threats for COVID-19 vaccines to SII chief

Days after Serum Institute of India's Adar Poonawalla broke the silence over the threats he is getting from 'most powerful people in India', Maharashtra Congress chief Nana Patole said that Congress is ready to take full responsibility for Poonawalla.

"Adar Poonawalla (Serum Institute of India CEO) said that he was threatened by some senior leaders. Congress takes full responsibility for his security. But he should make it public as to who are these leaders," Patole was quoted as saying by ANI.

In his first comments since he was provided with 'Y' category security by the Indian government earlier this week, Poonawalla had told 'The Times' in an interview about receiving aggressive calls from some of the most powerful people in India, demanding supplies of Covishield -- the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine that the Serum Institute is producing in India

Poonawalla recently spoke out about the pressures he was under over the production of COVID-19 vaccines to meet the ever-increasing demand in India as the country battles through a devastating second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

That pressure was largely behind his decision to fly into London to be with his wife and children, the 40-year-old entrepreneur had said in the interview on Saturday.

"I'm staying here (London) for an extended time because I don't want to go back to that situation. Everything falls on my shoulders but I can't do it alone...I don't want to be in a situation where you are just trying to do your job, and just because you can't supply the needs of X, Y or Z you really don't want to guess what they are going to do," Poonawalla had told the newspaper.

According to Indian government officials, the protection to Poonawalla has been given in view of "potential threats" to him. Armed commandos of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) will be with him every time he travels to any part of the country, they said and added that the 'Y' security cover will entail a posse of about 4-5 armed commandos.

"The level of expectation and aggression is really unprecedented. It's overwhelming. Everyone feels they should get the vaccine. They can't understand why anyone else should get it before them," Poonawalla had said.

The businessman had indicated in the interview that his move to London is also linked to business plans to expand vaccine manufacturing to countries outside India, which may include the likes of the UK.

"There's going to be an announcement in the next few days," he had said when asked about Britain as one of the production bases outside India.

According to the newspaper, by the time the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine was approved in January this year, the Serum Institute of India (SII) had increased its annual production capacity from 1.5 to 2.5 billion doses at a cost of USD 800 million, and stockpiled 50 million doses of Covishield.

The company began exporting to 68 countries, including Britain, as India seemed to have been over the worse until the situation worsened in recent weeks.

"We're really grasping for all the help we can get," Poonawalla had said in the 'Times' interview.

"I don't think even God could have forecast it was going to get this bad," he had said.

(with inputs from PTI)

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