Serum Institute of India, headed by CEO Adar Poonawalla, has taken on a vital role as the largest company licensed to manufacture the Oxford University-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine.
The Oxford-AstraZeneca shot, called Covishield in India, is being produced by the Pune-based institute which also happens to be the world’s largest vaccine maker.
Adar Poonawalla, CEO of Serum Institute of India, said his company is currently producing 50 to 60 million doses of Covishield per month, and production will be scaled up to 100 million doses a month after January or February. "I think everybody is aware the Ministry of Health wants 300 to 400 million doses by July 2021, so we're trying to get to that target," he said at a news conference last month.
A family business started by Poonawalla's father 50 years ago to bring cheaper vaccines to the masses, the Serum Institute of India is aiming to produce hundreds of millions of coronavirus vaccines for not only India, but also other developing countries. But Poonawalla has made it clear that his company will focus on immunizing India first before sending the vaccines overseas.
"It's very important we take care of our country first, then go on to COVAX after that and then other bilateral deals with countries. So I've kept it in that priority," Poonawalla said in an interview with CNBC-TV18 last month.
Now that the vaccines in India are slowly but steadily becoming a reality especially in the times when the country is also the second-worst hit by the global pandemic, google search queries are flooded with Adar Poonawalla's name and understandably so.
"Who is Adar Poonawalla?" "How much would Covishield vaccine cost?" "When will the vaccine be available?" -- one would expect these and many more important questions related to vaccine and Poonawalla to show up on Google Trends in India.
But that was definitely not the case in India where people have been googling away things that they perhaps deem essential at the moment.
If you typed in "Adar Poonawalla" on google, the top searched query is Natasha Poonawalla, Adar Poonawalla's wife. Natasha is the executive director of Serum Institute of India.
This is followed by "Adar Poonawalla religion". Really.
The results remain pretty much the same if the search is extended to 30 days.
According to Serum Institute of India, Covishield could be sold to the Indian government for about $3 for two doses, and later $6 to $8 on the private market.