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Pfizer seeks expedited nod for COVID-19 vaccine in India, donates medicines worth $70 million

Pfizer seeks expedited nod for COVID-19 vaccine in India, donates medicines worth $70 million
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New Delhi: Pfizer is in discussions with the Indian government for an expedited approval pathway to make Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine available in the country, its chief Albert Bourla said on Monday, while stating that the firm is donating medicines worth $70 million (over Rs 510 crore) for treatment of COVID-19 patients in India.

"We are deeply concerned by the critical COVID-19 situation in India, and our hearts go out to you, your loved ones and all the people of India," he said in a mail sent to Pfizer India employees that he posted on linked.in. Pfizer is committed to being a partner in India's fight against this disease and is quickly working to mobilise the largest humanitarian relief effort in the company's history, he added.

"Right now, Pfizer colleagues at distribution centres in the US, Europe and Asia are hard at work rushing shipments of Pfizer medicines that the Government of India has identified as part of its COVID treatment protocol," Bourla said.

Pfizer is donating these medicines to help make sure that every COVID-19 patient in every public hospital across the country can have access to company's medicines they need free of charge, he added.

He also said that the company is aware that access to vaccines is critical to ending this pandemic.

"Unfortunately, our vaccine is not registered in India although our application was submitted months ago. We are currently discussing with the Indian government an expedited approval pathway to make our Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine available for use in the country," Bourla said.

Meanwhile, with states scrambling to secure vaccines, Adar Poonawalla — whose firm is the main supplier of COVID vaccine in India — on Monday said his firm cannot ramp up production overnight as vaccine making is a specialised process.

Serum Institute of India (SII) has orders from the Government of India to supply 11 crore more doses over the next few months on top of 15 crore already supplied, he said in a statement. He, however, did not give a timeline for supplying the vaccines.

Pune-based SII can produce 6-7 crore doses a month and is reportedly planning to ramp up production to 10 crore by July.

Serum Institute of India (SII) also endorsed the government statement that 100 per cent advance of Rs 1,732.50 crore has been released to the company on April 28 for 11 crore doses of the Covishield vaccine for May, June and July.

"We endorse this statement, & the authenticity of the information. We have been working closely with the Government of India for the past year & thank it for its support. We remain committed to ramping up our vaccine production to save every life we can," SII said on Twitter.

The company's response came after the Health Ministry in a statement refuted allegations that it has not placed any fresh orders for the Covishield vaccine with SII.

The Health Ministry earlier said that it has paid the entire advance of Rs 1,732.50 crore to SII for 11 crore doses of Covishield vaccine for three months — May, June and July. The ministry also said that another 5 rore doses of Covaxin have been ordered from Bharat Biotech India Ltd for the same months.

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