Under pressure from powerful to give jabs: Adar Poonawalla

Updated on May 02, 2021 12:52 AM IST

The pressure was what led him to fly to London to be with his wife and children, Poonawalla, 40, told British newspaper The Times in an interview

Adar Poonawalla indicated that the move to London was linked to business plans to expand vaccine manufacturing to countries outside India, including the UK.(Bloomberg)
Adar Poonawalla indicated that the move to London was linked to business plans to expand vaccine manufacturing to countries outside India, including the UK.(Bloomberg)
By, New Delhi

Serum Institute of India (SII) CEO Adar Poonawalla said on Saturday that he was under immense pressure to deliver Covid vaccines fast and even faced threatening calls from powerful people as the second wave of the pandemic rages through the country, indicating that his company would start producing doses outside the country as well.

The pressure was what led him to fly to London to be with his wife and children, Poonawalla, 40, told British newspaper The Times in an interview. “I’m staying here (in London) for an extended time because I don’t want to go back to that situation. Everything falls on my shoulders but I can’t do it alone... I don’t want to be in a situation where you are just trying to do your job, and just because you can’t supply the needs of X, Y or Z you really don’t want to guess what they are going to do,” he was quoted as saying by The Times.

“The level of expectation and aggression is really unprecedented. It’s overwhelming. Everyone feels they should get the vaccine. They can’t understand why anyone else should get it before them,” he added.

The calls come from powerful people demanding instant supplies of Covishield, he said. “‘Threats’ is an understatement.”

The businessman was provided “Y” category security by the government earlier this week in view of the threat perception to him. “Y” category security entails a posse of at least four armed commandos to guard the protected person all the time.

Poonawalla indicated that the move to London was linked to business plans to expand vaccine manufacturing to countries outside India, including the UK.

“There’s going to be an announcement in the next few days,” he said, when asked about Britain as one of the production bases outside India.

The SII has been exporting Covishield to 68 nations, though the focus has now firmly shifted back to India given the enormity of the outbreak in recent weeks. “We’re really gasping for all the help we can get,” Poonawalla said. “I don’t think even God could have forecast it was going to get this bad,” he said. On a question as to who was to blame, Poonawalla said, “If I give you the right answer, or any answer, my head would be chopped off... I can’t comment on the elections or Kumbh Mela. It’s too sensitive.”

(With agency inputs)

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