A universal vaccine against Covid-19 is not for now. Asked by the Financial Times, Adar Poonawalla, managing director of the Serum Institute of India, one of the world’s largest vaccine manufacturers, believes the miracle product should not be available to everyone until the end of 2024, at the earliest. . According to him, pharmaceutical companies will not be able to sufficiently increase their production capacities before this deadline. Even if the French Sanofi already intends to double its global production capacities, he told L’Usine Nouvelle.
If the vaccine consists of two doses, as for measles or rotavirus, at least 15 billion will be needed. Administering them should take between 4 and 5 years, he adds. Based in the western Indian city of Pune, the Serum Institute has joined forces with five other multinationals in the sector, including the British AstraZeneca and the American biotech Novavax, to produce 1 billion doses of vaccine against Covid-19. Half will be distributed in India.
Far from the promises of a vaccine in the coming months
The institute also plans to join forces with Russian Gamaleya to produce Sputnik, the “miracle” product recently touted by Vladimir Poutine. With 1.5 billion doses distributed in more than 170 countries to fight diseases such as polio, measles and influenza, the Serum Institute is also the source of most of the vaccines developed for developing countries. Contrary to political promises of a cure in the coming months, Adar Poonawalla’s pessimistic point of view only seems more relevant.
The Serum Institute’s Covid-19 vaccine is expected to cost around $ 3 and ship to 68 countries as part of the partnership with AstraZeneca, and 92 countries with Novavax. Last May, the WHO estimated that it would take between 4 to 5 years before the pandemic is under control, which seems to go in the direction of Adar Poonawalla’s words. If it seems the best option for the moment, the vaccine will not necessarily be the only solution, continued the WHO. A mutation of the virus could in particular make it ineffective.
Looking for investors
To reach the desired billion doses more quickly, Adar Poonawalla (also son of Cyrus Poonawalla, billionaire and seventh largest Indian fortune) announced to meet with the Saudi Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, the American TPG capital and the UAE ADQ hoping to raise $ 600 million. According to the Financial Times, the first two would have refused.
Last April, the Indian ordered 600 million glass vials and various other materials to prepare for mass production of the vaccine. He fears, however, that distribution will be complicated in India, as the country does not have a cold storage system sophisticated enough to carry so many doses to 1.4 billion people. “I do not yet see how to successfully distribute more than 400 million doses in India”, concludes Adar Poonawalla in the Financial Times. “You don’t want a situation where the vaccine is available in your country, but you can’t use it.”