India’s Serum Institute – Surrounded by Covid19 Vaccine Controversies
Nearly a week ago South Africa suspended the use of AstraZeneca shots manufactured by Serum Institute of India (SII) and showed inclination to sell those doses to other countries.
This has happened because preliminary studies have surfaced, that highlight its limited effectiveness against the more contagious Covid-19 local variant. Today, Forbes has reported that South African Government has asked SII to take back 1M doses provided in February.
Considering the previous reports and data, SII’s production of AstraZeneca – local, Covishield, appears controversial. AstraZeneca vaccine efficacy is reported ranging from 62% to 90%, however, questions have been raised concerning the findings and how it has been tested.
A puzzling and unexpected outcome has revealed that the vaccine has seemed to work better in patients who have accidentally received a smaller dose in their first shot. Even those running the trials have also admitted that the outcome has been incomprehensible.
As reported, in the days followed, the trial has been slammed due to lack of transparency and precision, with the company announcing to conduct new trials. In December 2020, AlJazeera reported,
“AstraZeneca said it might have to run an additional global trial to assess the efficacy of its COVID-19 vaccine, after concerns were raised about the effectiveness of its jab. Earlier, the British company said their drug had proved on average 70-percent effective.”
Interestingly, SII is manufacturing AstraZeneca – local Covishield, at a large scale with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance.
GAVI has been criticized by the public-sector workers and public health academics over its collaboration with private-sector actors, vaccine pricing, market shaping and having no on-ground experience of health care systems.
Seth Berkley, CEO of GAVI, has been associated with Rockefeller Foundation for International Aids Vaccine Initiative, Acumen Fund Gilead Sciences, New York Academy of Sciences and is a member of Council of Foreign Relations.
As per New York Times,
“The Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine factory, churns out the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine at a daily rate of about 2.5 million doses. That pace has allowed India to begin to dole out doses free of charge to neighbors. To much fanfare, planeloads have arrived in Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar, the Maldives, Sri Lanka, the Seychelles and Afghanistan.”
New York Times also reported,
“The Indian government has tried to score publicity points for doses shipped to places like Brazil and Morocco, though those countries purchased theirs. The Serum Institute has also pledged 200 million doses to a global W.H.O. pool called Covax that would go to poorer nations, while China recently pledged 10 million.”
Now, India is going to ship Covid-19 vaccine to Canada within a month as diplomatic tensions due to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s comments on farmers protests in India are easing after he spoke with Modi.
The rush being exhibited by SII and the Indian Government over large-scale distribution of Indian manufactured vaccine globally is concerning, especially when the trials in India, particularly those run by SII have turned out to be controversial.
India indeed has the capacity to produce vaccine. However without addressing the concerns raised and initiation of mass vaccination in India first, such so-called diplomatic postures to ‘gift’ vaccine become questionable. More so, especially after South Africa’s decision to return the Indian manufactured vaccine as human lives are on stake.