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Dhaka Tribune

Serum's CEO Poonawalla moves to London, cites threatening phone calls from powerful people

SII also plans to begin vaccine production outside India, including UK

Update : 02 May 2021, 01:20 PM

Serum Institute of India (SII) CEO Adar Poonawalla has moved to London following alleged threatening phone calls from country's 'most powerful' people for instant supplies of Covid-19 vaccine Covishield, British daily The Times reported.

SII is manufacturing AstraZeneca-Oxford University's Covishield vaccine in India.

Poonawalla told The Times in an interview that he had been getting phone calls from the "most powerful" in India, including chief ministers, and business leaders, for immediate supply of Covishield vaccine.

"Threats will be an understatement. The level of expectation and aggression is unprecedented. It is overwhelming. Everyone feels they should get the vaccine. They can't understand why anyone else should get it before them," Poonawalla said referring to the phone calls.

Explaining the aggressive phone calls, he told the newspaper: "They are saying if you don't give us the vaccine it's not going to be good. It is not their foul language, but their tone. It is the implication of what they might do if I do not comply. It's coming over and basically surrounding the place and not letting us do anything unless we give in to their demands."

Also Read - Serum Institute plans to start vaccine production outside India

"I am staying here [London] for an extended period of time because I don't want to go back to that situation... Everything falls on my shoulders but I can't do it alone... I don't want to be in a situation where you are just trying to do your job, and just because you can't supply the needs of X, Y or Z you really don't want to guess what they are going to do," he added.

SII also plans to begin vaccine production outside India, including UK, and him moving to London is also linked to it.

"There's going to be an announcement in the next few days," he said after being asked if vaccines will be produced in UK, the report said.

Earlier this week, India's central government had decided to give Y category security to Poonawalla. The government's decision came after the director, government and regulatory affairs at SII Prakash Kumar Singh wrote to the Union Home Minister Amit Shah on April 16.

In his letter, Singh had requested the Union Home Ministry to provide security to Poonawalla. He also talked about the threats that Poonawalla had received from various groups over supplies of SII's coronavirus vaccine.

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