05 Mar 2021: Adar Poonawalla, WHO scientist warn of delays in vaccine production
Adar Poonawalla, the head of the world's biggest vaccine maker, and the World Health Organization's (WHO) chief scientist have said that the manufacturers of coronavirus vaccine doses are facing a global shortage of the raw materials required to produce the doses.
The shortage concerns emerged after US President Joe Biden's administration announced plans to boost supplies needed to make Pfizer Inc.'s vaccines.
Details: US law blocking export of key items, says Poonawalla
Poonawalla, the Chief Executive Officer of the Serum Institute of India, told a World Bank panel on Thursday that a US law blocking the export of certain key items, such as bags and filters, may cause serious hurdles.
Soumya Swaminathan from the WHO added there is a shortage of vials, glass, plastic and stoppers required by companies like AstraZeneca Plc and Novavax Inc.
Details: 'It is going to become a critical limiting factor'
"The Novavax vaccine, which we are a major manufacturer for, needs these items from the US," Poonawalla said, according to Bloomberg.
"If we are talking about building capacity all over the world, the sharing of these critical raw materials is going to become a critical limiting factor - nobody has been able to address this so far," he added.
Statement: 'Need global agreement and coordination'
"There is a shortage of materials, of products that you need for the manufacturing of vaccines," said Swaminathan. "This is where again you need global agreement and coordination not to do export bans."
She informed the WHO's vaccine partners, including the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations, will hold meetings on Monday and Tuesday next week to discuss these issues.
Context: Biden announced plans to boost production of Pfizer's vaccines
The concerns have emerged after President Biden last month announced plans to use the Defense Production Act (DPA) in several key areas including the equipment and supplies for Pfizer vaccine production.
Poonawalla's Serum Institute, on the other hand, is licensed to manufacture millions of COVID-19 vaccines from drug makers like AstraZeneca Plc and Novavax Inc.
Fact: Serum distributed 90 million doses to 51 countries this year
However, despite Poonawalla's warnings, he said the Serum Institute had in the past two months distributed 90 million doses of AstraZeneca's vaccine to 51 countries after it was given emergency authorization by India in January - a record speed for the Pune-based company.