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Covishield output to be cut by 50%: SII head explains why

The reasons go beyond the export of Covishield slowing down, SII head Adar Poonawalla said, expecting the export orders to pick up in the next quarter

The Serum Institute of India (SII), the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer by volume, has said it is reducing the production of by at least 50% from next week as the company has no further orders from the union government.

The company is in a dilemma as is more than demand for and it has to dial down the production. We will complete our existing orders to the government by next week. The company has written to the government for guidance on volumes needed,” CEO Adar Poonawalla said in an interview.

As of now, the SII is manufacturing close to 250-275 million doses a month. Poonawalla had told TOI in an interview in October that the production in November would go to 240 million doses, up from around 220 million.

‘SII has 500 million doses, awaiting govt to get back to us’

Previously, the company was rolling out about 100-110 million doses per month. In November, the company resumed exports of to Covax, the WHO-backed global platform, after halting them in March when the was hit by a lethal second wave of infections.

“If the government doesn’t need it, SII will start exporting as I mentioned in Q1of 2021. Wehave recently explained this to the government and we have been discussing, so I think we will wait a few days for them to have their internal discussion and get back to us,” Poonawalla said.

The SII has 500 million doses of Covishield — half of that is finished product and half of that is bulk, which can be filled and finished in a matter of two months, and it has a shelf life of nine months — and it is available on priority to the Indian government.

Pointing out that the export of is also slow currently, he said the export orders would pick up in the next quarter. “Over the eight months when we could not export, other countries managed supplies from donations from the US and elsewhere and we have lost a lot of share,” he said, adding that he is now going to try to claw the demand back in the first quarter of 2022.

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