No takers for boosters, 100m Covishield doses dumped: SII
Serum Institute of India's owner and CEO Adar Poonawalla on Thursday said the company stopped production of the Covishield vaccine in December last year and some 100 million doses it had in stock at the time were dumped upon expiry.
"Since December 2021, we have stopped production of Covishield. The booster vaccines have no demand as people now seem fed up with Covid. Honestly, I'm also fed up. We all are," he said while speaking to the press on the sidelines of the annual general meeting of the Developing Countries Vaccine Manufacturers Network (DCVMN). The three-day conference began in Pune on Thursday.
Covovax, the new jab that SII has developed, will be part of the mixed booster regime. Poonawalla said, "Now, Covovax should be allowed in two weeks. Going forward, when people take a flu shot every year, they may take a Covid vaccine along with it. But in India, there is no culture of taking a flu shot every year, like we have in the West."
On SII's efforts to develop vaccines against Omicron strains, Poonawalla said, "We are partnering with US' Novavax on an Omicron-specific booster. This is going to be a bivalent vaccine. Our Covovax vaccine, which has undergone trials for its efficacy as a booster shot, is likely to get approval in the next 10-15 days." SII is also developing a single-dose intranasal Covid vaccine with US firm Codagenix.
At the press meet, WHO chief scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan said the emergence of new SARS-CoV-2 variants calls for 100% vaccination of healthcare workers and vulnerable age groups.
"The newly-detected recombinant XBB is more immune evasive among Omicron's 300 sub-variants. It is likely we may see a wave caused by these sub-variants. As of now, there is no data from any country that shows the newly emerged sub-variants are causing severity and leading to more hospitalisation. So we should continue to do strategic genome sequencing," Dr Swaminathan said.