The Serum Institute of India, the largest vaccine maker in the world is all set to invest in facilities in the United Kingdom and could even manufacture vaccines in the UK by setting new production plants in future, the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday.
Boris Johnson’s Downing Street office said the 240 million Great British Pounds (334 million dollars) project would innclude a sales office, research and development, clinical trials, and possibly manufacturing of vaccines. Johnson’s office also said the vaccine maker’s plans were a part of trade and investment deals with India worth $1 billion that it expects to create over 6,500 jobs.
SII has also begun phase one trials of a one-dose nasal vaccine for Covid-19 in the United Kingdom. The announcement of setting up a new facility in Britain comes ahead of virtual talks between Boris Johnson and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday.
This comes at a time when India is grappling with the unprecedented second wave of Covid-19 pandemic and the country’s vaccine needs are immediate.
With its massive population and growing economy, India has been high on London’s list of trade deal targets since Britain withdrew from the European Union last year. But a prevailing Covid-19 situation in India has left the health system in splits with ongoing oxygen shortage, hospitals running out of beds and ventilators, forcing Johnson to shelve a planned visit this month.
Before the current wave of Covid-19, India was exporting tens of millions of SII-made AstraZeneca shots via through the Covax scheme supplying poorer countries. Last month New Delhi froze exports to prioritise jabs at home.
Britain said Sunday it was sending an extra 1,000 oxygen ventilators to India, having already sent 495 oxygen concentrators, 200 ventilators and three larger production units dubbed oxygen factories.
Poonawalla attracted criticism for heading to London just before Britain put India on a red list of banned countries.
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In an interview with a British daily, Poonawalla said he had joined his wife and children in Britain because highly-placed Indians were pressuring him to provide them with jabs first. However, he said he is heading back to India.