Booster dose ‘unethical’ now, may be needed later: Adar Poonawalla
Serum Institute to ramp up production of Covishield to 200mn doses a month
BENGALURU: While some countries have started rolling out booster shots and the jury has not been out yet in India, Serum Institute of India’s CEO Adar Poonawalla termed it “unethical” to roll out a booster dose in the country when many in the country have still not been administered with both doses and several in other countries have not even got their first dose yet.
Adar Poonawalla's comments come weeks after his father and SII's Chairman Cyrus Poonawalla said a third dose of the vaccine is a 'must' and should be given six months after the second dose.
Clarifying his father’s statement Adar at the press conference held to announce the strategic alliance of SSI with Biocon, said "I think what we meant in his comments was that maybe some very vulnerable sections could do with booster shots."
He said, there is no evidence so far that a third dose is required and it has not been recommended officially. While vaccine makers like Pfizer and Moderna have pushed for a booster shot saying vaccine efficacy wanes over time, the scientific jury is still out.
Answering to a question on whether SSI is coming with a booster shot, Adar said booster shots may be required annually down the line, but are not the need of the hour now.
He said, “It will be unethical to think of a booster shot now. However, the decision will be taken by the DGCI, give of India and the ICMR based on the data collected and after which the jury will be out on the third dose or the booster dose,”
Meanwhile, he also explained that Serum Institute is going to ramp up production of Covishield to 200 mn doses a month by October. He also hinted that the export restrictions on the Covishield vaccines may be eased out soon.
“The export restrictions were there temporarily and rightly so to take care of our nation's need first. We will slowly ease in the next month or two. I don’t want to venture into guessing the exact date. But we are coming very close to a point where there is more than enough vaccine stock,” he explained.
He expects that in the next two months slow easing of exports should happen.
However, he was quick to add that “it is the govt of India’s decision as they have to balance the needs and stockpiling of vaccines for India in case of third and fourth waves. The government of India is being very calculative in terms of managing the stocks as they do not want any situation like faced in the second wave.”
Paediatric COVID vaccine ‘Covivax’ by Jan-Feb?
Serum Institute of India (SII) CEO Adar Poonawalla on Friday said that he is hopeful that Covovax, a vaccine for children as young as four years will be ready for recommendation by January or February 2022.
“Covovax has now started trials for children. I think three to four months is the minimum period we need to ascertain how safe and effective and well-accepted it is for children. Don’t forget we are going to go below the age of 12 years in a phased manner so that we can cover almost down to the age of three or four,” he said.
Though the disease has thankfully not been affecting children with the same amount as in adults, eventually every parent would want to vaccinate and keep their child safe, he explained.
Poonawala though did not want to commit to an exact time frame he said that it depends on the Drug Controller office’s decision as to when they would feel it is safe and appropriate to be administered to children, “but my rough forecast would be that it will be ready for recommendation by January or February.”