Billionaire and Global Vaccine Giant offers critical reality check about the COVID-19 pandemic
Mumbai, 11th Aug’20: The success of the Covid-19 Oxford vaccine trial has been making global headlines. Indian billionaire Adar Poonawalla, CEO of Serum Institute of India (SI), the largest vaccine manufacturer in the world, is a key partner to the Oxford trial, and has risked close to $300 million in the vaccine, and is set to manufacture 200 million vaccines even before the final clearances come.
Slated for December 2020, the vaccine is highly anticipated around the world. Now in a crucial interview with journalist Shoma Chaudhury on her web show Enquiry, ADAR POONAWALLA – billed the most important person outside of a lab in the fight against Covid-19 – has offered critical reality checks on the vaccine and its timeline that could impact decision-making for governments, corporates, entrepreneurs, schools, and every aspect of our lives.
“I have been trying to explain to government and chief ministers of states, please don’t wait for a vaccine or miracle drug to come, because it’s not going to happen,” he said. “There is no 100% cure. Like with all vaccines, the chances of falling sick are reduced a lot. There is an 80% chance you wont get it, but 20% chance you may still get it. We know this vaccine is safe, but we don’t know yet if the Oxford vaccine will protect us from Coronavirus.”
With decades in the business, he also re-set expectations on the timeline. “People are expecting a vaccine at the end of the year. But to be honest, even if the vaccine gets licensed, it will be at least 2 to 2 and-a-half years before everyone in India can get the vaccine,” he said, citing India’s 1.4 billion population.
In a clear message, he urged: “Please go on with your normal lives. Wear your masks, follow safety precautions, test yourselves to protect your loved ones. Do not wait for a miracle.”
In another emphatic message, he said, “The fear mongering has to reduce. Governments, scientists and experts need to communicate clearly with people to manage the fear. The elderly and immuno-compromised are vulnerable, but the rest are okay. Even if you get the fever, you will recover in a few days.”
On lockdowns he said, “We need to let the disease run its course. We cannot have multiple lockdowns. Don’t open, stagger, and then shut down again. We do not need to panic the way we are panicking today.”
He also urged people not to crowd hospitals unless they needed oxygen or ventilators.
Asked why he was risking millions of dollars in advance manufacturing the vaccine, he said, “My father, Cyrus Poonawalla, and I almost see it as a responsibility. Because we are the only ones who have the capacity to manufacture vaccines at such a large scale, it would almost be a crime if we didn’t.
With a footprint in 167 countries, SI has been committed to providing equitable and affordable healthcare over many decades. Defining his philosophy, Adar Poonawalla said, “We have always looked at humanity first.”
In an inspirational message for all big business, he pointed out the difference between making profits and profiteering. “After a certain point, wealth doesn’t really make a difference. It’s what difference I, or our company, can make to the lives of other people that matters to me and gives me satisfaction.”
Poonawalla, who has invested millions of dollars of personal money on the Oxford vaccine said his greatest mentor was Bill Gates.
“Philanthropy does not only mean cutting a cheque,” he said. “It means giving off one’s time, building expertise, impacting policy and behavior change.”