Serum Institute to prioritize India

An AstraZeneca vaccine production line.

Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The world’s largest vaccine maker by volume, Serum Institute of India, has been told to meet domestic demand for Covid-19 shots first — before distributing them overseas.

The move implies that foreign governments could face order delays from the company as it places India’s needs ahead of others.

“Dear countries & governments, as you await #COVISHIELD supplies, I humbly request you to please be patient,” CEO Adar Poonawalla tweeted.

He said the Serum Institute of India (SII) “has been directed to prioritise the huge needs of India and along with that balance the needs of the rest of the world. We are trying our best.”

Poonawalla did not elaborate on who gave the directive.

SII declined to comment further about Poonawalla’s tweet when contacted by CNBC.


An army health worker prepares a dose of Covishield, AstraZeneca/Oxford’s Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine made by India’s Serum Institute, at an army hospital in Colombo on January 29, 2021.

ishara S. Kodikara | AFP | Getty Images

Covishield was also granted emergency use listing by the World Health Organization (WHO) this month, allowing it to be supplied to low and middle-income countries around the world.

AstraZeneca said it hopes more than 300 million doses will be made available to 145 countries in the first half of 2021 through Covax, a global vaccination initiative led by WHO and others.

Covishield is less expensive compared to some of the other vaccines being used — such as the ones from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. It also doesn’t need to be stored in ultra-low temperatures, which makes it suitable for use in many developing countries that lack necessary storage infrastructure.

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