With not enough orders for Covishield from the central government, Serum Institute of India (SII) CEO Adar Poonawalla on Tuesday said the company is looking at slashing the monthly production of vaccines by at least 50 percent.
The SII has written to the government to seek clarity on its requirement, if any, for normal two doses for eligible people in the country and also on booster doses.
"I am actually in a dilemma that I never imagined... we are producing 250 million doses a month but the good news is that India has covered up a large part of its population and we would have completed all our orders to the Ministry of Health in a week's time," Mr Poonawalla said in an interview to CNBC-TV18.
On his future production strategy, the SII CEO said that as there was "no other orders in hand so I am going to reduce the production by at least 50 per cent to begin with...on a monthly basis until the orders again pick up either in India or the world".
Pointing out that the export of Covishield is also slow currently, he said the export orders would pick up in the next quarter.
"Over the eight months when we could not export, other countries managed vaccine supplies from donations from the US and elsewhere and we have lost a lot of market share," he said, however, added that he is now going to try to claw the demand back in the first quarter of next year.
Initially, it is going to be slow but will pick up though it will never be to the tune of probably needing 250 million doses a month unless there is a requirement from the central government, Mr Poonawalla said.
"If they need more vaccines for the booster doses, we have already written to them (central government). Now it is their decision on the booster policy whether they will procure more and stockpile before the next surge happens, if at all it comes. We are awaiting their directions," he added.
He further said: "We must keep in mind that we don't need a situation like last year where suddenly the country needs hundreds of millions of doses, that won't be possible if we dial down our production. So that is why we have explained this to the government and experts to please let us know now. If you need more doses for boosters we have it in stock, we can produce more. Just give us that guidance. That discussion is on at the moment."
Mr Poonawalla said the vaccine major currently has a stock of 500 million doses. "Half of that is finished product and half can be finished in a matter of two months and it has a shelf life of nine months, so we have to decide what to do with the stock. It is available on priority to India and if not, we will start exporting a lot more from quarter one of 2022," he stated.
Mr Poonawalla said the government has been informed and the company would wait for a few days for them to come back before deciding on its next course of action.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)