AstraZeneca serves legal notice to Serum Institute over supply delays
AstraZeneca, the developer of the coronavirus vaccine being manufactured by Serum Institute of India (SII) and sold as Covishield, has sent a legal notice to the Pune-based company for delays in deliveries, SII’s chief executive officer Adar Poonawalla told Business Standard on Tuesday.
The company is a key supplier for the UN-backed Covax program that aims to distribute vaccines equitably in the world. On March 25, Covax announced a major setback in its vaccine rollout because a surge in infections in India caused the Serum Institute of India (SII) to cater to domestic demand, resulting in a delay in global shipments of up to 90 million doses.
“AstraZeneca has sent us a legal notice (for delays in supplying the vaccine) and the Indian government is also aware of that. I cannot comment on the legal notice as it is confidential, but we are examining all avenues to amicably manage and resolve legal disputes over contractual obligations that Serum Institute is not able to fulfil due to its prioritisation of Indian supplies. Everyone has been very understanding so far. The government is evaluating what it can do to resolve the issue,” Poonawalla said.
Poonawalla, whose company is the world’s largest vaccine maker, separately told AP that SII will be able to restart exports by June if new infections subside in India since the company has “chosen to prioritise India temporarily for two months”.
He acknowledged that has put a “strain on our contractual obligations” to provide vaccines to other countries. “I’ve had to politely explain to everybody the situation,” he said, adding that most leaders understood as they were facing the same issues.
If India’s surge in infections doesn’t subside, “I am scared of what ... we will have to do, and what will happen,” he said.
(With agency inputs)