SII recently reached out to the US government to tell it that the company requires raw materials to produce Covovax and not Covishield. The development comes after the White House issued a statement saying it has identified sources that will provide raw materials to India for the production of Covishield, a vaccine currently being manufactured by Serum Institute of India.

Also read: Serum Institute of India is hopeful of launching Covovax by June: SII CEO Adar Poonawalla

White House’s statement

Earlier this week, Emily Horne, the USA’s National Security Council, issued a statement saying, “The United States has identified sources of specific raw material urgently required for Indian manufacture of the Covishield vaccine that will immediately be made available for India.”

In the statement it was also mentioned that the decision was taken after a call between USA’s National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and India’s National Security Advisor, Ajit Doval. The statement said that, “Just as India sent assistance to the United States as our hospitals were strained early in the pandemic, the United States is determined to help India in its time of need.”

Serum Institute of India in contact with the US Govt to ensure clarity

According to reports, the SII is in contact with US government’s top officials. Both the parties are trying to identify why SII was provided with raw materials to manufacture Covishield when assistance was needed for Covovax.

It should be noted that Covovax is another COVID-19 vaccine that SII will be manufacturing along with Covishield. The vaccine is originally a product of a US-based pharma company Novavax. Novavax and Serum Institute have struck a deal where SII will be producing as many as 1 billion vaccine doses for India.

The vaccine has an efficacy of 96% against the original COVID-19 strain. In the III phase of the trial, the vaccine showed an 89.7% efficacy when it was administered to 15,000 test participants. Although the efficacy is highest for any vaccine, it should be noted that against the South African mutant, the vaccine showed an efficacy of 48.6%.

Adar Poonawalla reaches out to US govt, Ask President Biden to lift the embargo

Earlier, SII CEO Adar Poonawalla asked US President Joe Biden to lift the embargo on raw material exports so that SII can ramp up the production of COVID-19 vaccines. In a tweet, Poonawalla urged President Biden by writing, “Respected @POTUS, if we are to truly unite in beating this virus, on behalf of the vaccine industry outside the U.S., I humbly request you to lift the embargo of raw material exports out of the U.S. so that vaccine production can ramp up. Your administration has the details.”

What is an ‘embargo’ due to which supplies are not being released by US?

Technically speaking, an embargo is an order passed by a country’s govt that restricts trade with specified countries.

The export of critical raw materials needed in production of COVID-19 vaccines have been restricted because the US President Joe Biden invoked the US Defense Production Act in 2021. This act was passed way back in 1950. The purpose of this act was to help supplies and equipment during the Korean War.

As the years passed by, the scope of the act also grew bigger with the act now covering terrorist attacks, natural hazard and emergencies. This Act gives the President the power to tell the domestic business and companies to prioritize national contracts first.

Back in 2020 when COVID-19 pandemic began, the then sitting President Donald Trump also invoked this Act so that production of essential medical equipment increased and exports were limited.

After a year or so, the current US President Joe Biden also invoked the act to ensure that “critical” supplies were produced on large scale so that the pandemic could be managed.

This Act in a nutshell means that American companies have to first prioritize the demands of the US first. This in consequence means that these companies will not be able to follow through their export commitments to other countries.