SII Seeks Govt's Nod to Give 50L Covishield Doses to UK, Says Won't Affect India's Vaccination Drive

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The world's largest vaccine manufacturer by volume, Serum Institute of India, has sought permission from the Centre to supply 50 lakh doses of Oxford COVID-19 vaccine Covishield to the United Kingdom, citing an agreement with AstraZeneca in this regard. It has, however, assured India that its own anti-coronavirus vaccination programme will not be disturbed because of this supply.

This development came amid reports that the UK's anti-coronavirus inoculation programme has been hit due to a delay in the supply of the second batch of vaccines. In a communique to Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan on Tuesday, the Director of Government and Regulatory Affairs at the Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII), Prakash Kumar Singh, sought permission to supply 50 lakh doses of Covishield stating that India's anti-coronavirus vaccination programme will not be affected.

It referred to a license agreement between AstraZeneca UK Limited and the Serum Institute of India in June 2020 with relation to technology transfer from AZ for manufacture and supply of Covishield. "Under this agreement, it was agreed that Serum Institute of India will supply any AstraZeneca country where AstraZeneca has commitments anywhere in the world. It was further agreed that, in return for getting access to the AZ technology AZD1222, Serum Institute Of India Pvt. Ltd will treat AstraZeneca as a priority customer, whether it is for drug substance or finished product," Singh stated.

According to the agreement, Serum Institute has to supply millions of doses of Covishield to AstraZeneca according to their requirement. "We have to supply at least 50 lakh doses to AstraZeneca immediately for use in the UK." "This is of utmost priority as AstraZeneca has conveyed and is also reminding us of our obligation to supply Covishield to them according to the agreement. AstraZeneca and representative of the UK Government have also conveyed to us today morning that if these minimum 50 lakh doses are not supplied to the UK immediately this week then the UK government might have to halt the vaccination programme," Singh said. The letter also reminded the government that the Serum Institute has received the technology to manufacture Covishield from AstraZeneca-Oxford and need to honour the commitment to supply at least 50 lakh doses of the vaccine.

"We are sure, considering the gravity of the situation and prestige of our company as well as our country is at stake, you will definitely intervene and give permission to us to supply at least 50 lakh doses of Covishield to the UK this week. We will be highly obliged for the same. We assure you that the Government of India's vaccination programme will not be disturbed because of this supply," Singh stated.