Serum Institute CEO Adar Poonawalla has moved to further explain comments made last week to British newspaper The Times - in which he spoke about "aggressive" phone calls from influential people in India demanding an immediate increase in supply of the Covishield coronavirus vaccine.
"I would like to clarify certain things since my comments may have been misinterpreted," Mr Poonawalla, in London with his wife to escape some of the pressure and threats, said in a statement tweeted on Monday afternoon.
"... vaccine manufacturing is a specialised process... it is therefore not possible to ramp up production overnight... We also need to understand that the population of India is huge and to produce enough doses is not an easy task," he said.
"Even the most advanced countries and companies are struggling..."
Amongst multiple reports it is important that correct information be shared with the public. pic.twitter.com/nzyOZwVBxH— Adar Poonawalla (@adarpoonawalla) May 3, 2021
On Saturday Mr Poonawalla told The Times "threats is an understatement", as he revealed pressure to scale up production and deliver the crores of doses required by the Indian government to vaccinate as many people as possible to counter a devastating second wave of the virus.
The following day he said: "Everything falls on my shoulders but I can't do it alone..."
In his statement Monday Mr Poonawalla said the Serum Institute had supplied over 15 crore doses to the centre since production began and had received an advance for another 11 crore.
An additional 11 crore doses, he said, would be delivered to states and private hospitals - in accordance with the centre's "liberalised" vaccination policy - within the next few months as well.
Mr Poonawalla's statement is part of a concerted pushback from the centre and SII against media reports alleging that the centre has yet to place fresh orders for COVID-19 vaccine doses.
"... media reports alleging the centre has not placed any fresh order for COVID-19 vaccines. The news reports suggest the last order... 100 million doses with SII and 20 million with Bharat Biotech... was in March 2021. These media reports are completely incorrect," the statement said.
The Serum Institute responded with a tweet that said: "We endorse this statement..."
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. https://t.co/tLVPjOMp51— SerumInstituteIndia (@SerumInstIndia) May 3, 2021
The SII - the world's largest vaccine manufacturer by volume - is a key global player in the fight against COVID-19, but the demand for vaccines, particularly from India, has put pressure on the facility; last month Mr Poonawalla told NDTV existing capacities were "very stressed".
SII produces around 70 million doses of Covishield per month. The advance of Rs 1,732.5 crore from the centre will help scale up production to around 100 million doses, but that will take time.
Meanwhile, with India widening the vaccine net to include everyone over 18, there is pressure on the centre and state governments to find enough doses for everyone eligible.
The new phase of the vaccination drive began on Saturday but hundreds of vaccination centres across the country still only allow people over 45; those that do allow people below that age limit are few in number and are often fully booked within minutes of coming online.
India is struggling to contain a devastating wave of Covid cases; this morning over 3.68 lakh new cases and more than 3,400 deaths were reported in 24 hours, leaving an already battered health infrastructure even closer to collapse.