Serum Institute of India (SII) is in talks with Danish firm Bavarian Nordic to import a small batch of vaccines to deal with monkeypox cases in the country, company CEO Adar Poonawalla said on Tuesday.
In case of a collaboration it could take two to three months to import the vaccine into the country, Poonawalla said in an interview to news channel NDTV.
With only a handful cases of monkeypox in the country at the moment, he said for initiating local development of the vaccine SII would have to wait and watch for a few months to assess the real demand scenario.
India has reported four cases monkeypox, including three in Kerala, so far.
“I am ready to do that immediately as a security to our nation. As soon as we can have some sort of commercial tie up to import it and based on availability from Bavarian Nordic, we are hoping to do so,” Poonawalla said when asked how soon SII could import the monkeypox vaccine into the country.
Danish firm Bavarian Nordic has already developed a vaccine against monkeypox and is available in different markets under brand names Jynneos, Imvamune or Imvanex.
Poonawalla further said: “My team is talking to them right now. For larger volumes we take a call based on true demand and necessity.” SII is ready to import some batches on its own cost initially, he said but added the government would have to decide how to go about for larger volumes.
“There are a handful of cases and so there is no need for knee jerk reaction and order million of dosages and do all of that..we need to watch closely over the next few months…have collaborated very well with the government earlier and we need to have that close coordination even now,” he added.
Poonawalla noted that even if they started the process now for manufacturing the vaccine locally, it would probably take a year before they come out with a market ready product.
“To make it from scratch is difficult as it would take time and investment.. not sure if we will be able to do it..it would have to be with someone else..,” Poonawalla said.
“As a manufacturer, we really need to see if there is a demand or in 4-5 months it is going to fizzle out and treatments that are there are going to take care of the disease like this so we will have to wait and watch,” he added.
On the other hand, the company can bring in bulk supplies of the vaccine which would be adequate for monkeypox as it is not going to be a global pandemic, he noted.
“You don’t need to vaccinate the entire population..in certain regions where spread is there you would like to vaccinate over there..and we are talking about importing some vaccine doses as finished product just over the next few months as abundant precaution if the country needs it..,” Poonawalla said.
He said there was no need to panic due to the detection of a few cases as the disease has been there for decades.
“We need to be vigilant and we need to follow WHO guidelines that have been set out in these particular areas and particular communities to follow so that we can reduce the spread as much as possible,” he stated.
Last week, the WHO declared monkeypox as a global public health emergency of international concern.
Monkeypox virus is transmitted from infected animals to humans via indirect or direct contact. Human-to-human transmission can occur through direct contact with infectious skin or lesions, including face-to-face, skin-to-skin, and respiratory droplets.
Globally, over 16,000 cases of monkeypox have been reported from 75 countries and there have been five deaths so far due to the outbreak.