Serum Institute of India (SII) CEO Adar Poonawalla on Tuesday defended the move of exporting COVID-19 vaccines, saying his company has "never exported vaccines at the cost of the people of India" and "remains committed to do everything we can in the support of the vaccination drive in the country".
In a statement, Poonawalla explained the situation in which the COVID-19 vaccines were sent abroad. "Firstly, in January 2021 we had a large stockpile of vaccine doses. Our vaccination drive had started successfully and the number of daily cases being recorded were at an all-time low. At that stage, most people including health experts believed that India was turning the tide on the pandemic. Around the same time, many other countries in the world were facing an acute crisis and were in desperate need of help. Our government extended support wherever possible during this period."
He added: "It is this spirit that had initially led to corporation between countries when the virus first emerged in the beginning of 2020. The corporation between countries forms the basis for us getting access to technology and aid for healthcare. Today, it is this reciprocity, where India has helped other countries with the supply of HCQ and vaccine exports, that has in turn led to support from other countries."
Poonawalla further said the pandemic is not limited by geographic or political boundaries. "We will not be safe till everyone globally is able to defeat this virus at a global scale," he added.
The SII CEO said India is amongst the two most populous countries in the world and hence, a vaccination drive for such a large population cannot be completed within 2-3 months. "It would take 2-3 years for entire world to get vaccinated against COVID-19," he added.