India has done a tremendous job on the vaccination drive but it will take at least nine more months to fully vaccinate all adults, Biocon Chairperson Kiran Mazumdar Shaw said on Tuesday. The sector veteran also warned that the country is on the cusp of another wave of COVID-19 and needs to be very careful about large scale congregations during the upcoming festivities, pointing out that the jump in infections in Kerala was attributable to the Onam festival.
“Another nine months minimum to give at least two doses of the vaccine to the eligible population,” she said at an event organised by IMC Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Shaw further said the Serum Institute of India (SII) has done a commendable job of supplying 600 million of the 650 million doses administered till now, and added that both SII and other firms will ramp up production fast to meet the requirement.
India exported the vaccine when it could, but had to restrict the same when a requirement was felt domestically, she said, adding that there is a massive vaccine inequity the world over. She also expressed surprise that some nations have started speaking about a third dose at a time when many of the developing or less developed countries are yet to get the first one for their citizens. “If nations just want to look after themselves, I can tell you they are not looking after themselves unless they look after every other country,” she warned.
Shaw said if a booster dose is required within six months, it means that the durability of the response generated is not as good as was deemed to be and more data was required, preferably collected over a year, before coming to a conclusion. Meanwhile, she rued that there is “shrinking” of talent pool available for the industry because of inadequate investment in skilling. “Many sectors lack the advanced skills that we need to compete globally. In our own sector, while we are doing very well, we need to have a much larger talent pool.
“Unfortunately, the talent pool has remained where it was and in many cases, it is shrinking because we have not invested in expanding the talent pool,” she said. Biocon has started an initiative to train students under a module prepared in association with a US-based institute which makes graduates industry-ready in three to four months, she said, adding that over 2,000 such students have been trained and successfully placed across the pharma sector. The company focuses its environment, social and governance efforts on health equity, purposeful employment and ethical business practices, Shaw said.