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Serum Institute of India readying one million doses of five Covid-19 vaccines

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BY S VENKAT NARAYAN
Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, October 24:

Serum Institute of India (SII) is readying one billion doses of five different vaccines against the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) across the world before the end of 2021-22, a report has said.

Adar Poonawalla, the chief executive of SII, the world’s largest vaccine maker by volume, said his company plans to launch at least one vaccine every quarter likely by the beginning of next year.

These will include Covishield, Covovax, COVIVAXX, COVI-VAC, and SII COVAX.

Covishield, which is being developed by the United Kingdom’s Oxford University, and licensed from British-Swedish drug-maker AstraZeneca, is currently undergoing Phase 3 of clinical trials in India among nearly 1,600 people.

SII has partnered with AstraZeneca to manufacture the vaccine candidate, which is expected to be launched in the first quarter of next year and immunisation can start by January if the clearances are given early.

“The plan is to launch at least one vaccine every quarter beginning with Covishield, which we licensed from AstraZeneca, likely by start of 2021… We are already making 20-30 million doses and can increase the production to 70-80 million a month. Currently, we are consciously producing less considering the shelf life of the vaccine,” Adar Poonawalla told BusinessToday.in on Thursday.

It reported that the second anti-coronavirus disease vaccine from Serum Institute Life Sciences (SILS), a new company floated by SII, is likely to be Covovax, which is a spike protein vaccine being developed in association with biotech firm Novovax.

Novovax has an arrangement with SII to produce one billion doses of the vaccine in 2021. The BusinessToday.in report said that the Phase 1 clinical trial of Covovax began in May 2020 in Australia and it is currently into the second phase of development. A phase-3 clinical trial with up to 30,000 subjects is expected to begin by end of 2020, it added.

 

Adar Poonawala said the new manufacturing facility SILS is coming up near the SII facility in Pune in Maharashtra state, and will take two years for completion. Poonawalla also said, according to BusinessToday.in, that SILS will outsource the capacity of SII until then.

Poonawalla added that the privately-held company has already invested 70% of the INR 30-billion capex required in land, buildings, plants, raw materials, and other related infrastructure.

SII will postpone its earlier expansion plans to develop a few new vaccines for the US and European markets. “Once completed, between SII and SILS, we will have a capacity to manufacture over 2.3 billion doses of coronavirus vaccines, provided there is demand and requirement,” the report quoted Poonawalla as saying.

India’s infection tally went up to 7.76 million with 54,366 new cases of the coronavirus disease and 690 related deaths, according to the Union health ministry.



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CB Governor: Lanka now in a position to pay for essentials

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‘Inflation will not be as high as initially expected’

Inflation will not be as high as initially expected and there are signs of economy stabilising, Central Bank Governor Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe says.Dr. Weerasinghe said that during the past few months a number of initiatives had been made to improve the economy and they were yielding the desired results.

“During the last review, we thought the inflation would reach 70%. However, now we believe that the inflation will not be that high even with the electricity tariff hike,” he said.

Dr. Weerasinghe said that the severity of the shortage of foreign currency had lessened. The country was now in a position to import fuel, gas and medicines.

“This has become possible because of the decisions we took. Imports have decreased. Export revenue has somewhat increased. Even without short-term loans we have been able to meet our basic needs. This is a positive development,” Dr. Weerasinghe said.The CB Governor said that inflation driven by demand had lessened because the expansion of loans had been curtailed.The supply side inflation too would drop with price and foreign exchange stabilisation.

“Still the inflation is about 60% and that’s why we need to maintain the current high policy rates. Once the government adjusts the fiscal policy, tax, and presents the new budget, things will improve. I think you can also see this. We are seeing positives,” he said.

Dr. Weerasinghe also urged exporters to bring back the foreign exchange earnings, and that the Central Bank had taken steps to ensure that exporters abided by the CB regulations.

“The irregularities due to open accounts, hawala and undial are being controlled and the black market premium is dropping. The foreign exchange liquidity in the banking sector has increased,” he said.

The Governor added that negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had made good progress. An IMF delegation was expected to visit Sri Lanka by the end of August to reach a staff-level agreement.After Sri Lanka reached a staff-level agreement with the IMF, it had to start engaging with its creditors on debt restructuring.

“Once we reach an agreement with the IMF the situation will improve further,” he added. (RK)

(See related stories in the business section)

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CID arrests Mervyn 15 years after he forcibly entered Rupavahini

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By Norman Palihawadana

Former Minister Mervyn Silva was yesterday arrested by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) for forcibly entering the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC) and attacking some employees there in 2007.On 27 Dec. 2007, Silva and his associates entered the SLRC premises and assaulted its news director for not airing a speech he had made in Matara.

SLRC employees held Silva incommunicado for hours, and the police intervened to secure his release. A few weeks later, some of the workers involved in the incident came under goon attacks.Mahinda Rajapaksa was the President at the time.

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Aeroflot affair: flights yet to resume; MP questions status of probe into detention of SU 289

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ByShamindra Ferdinando

Sri Lanka hadn’t been able yet to convince Russia to resume Aeroflot flights and tourists from there to Sri Lanka suspended in the wake of the detention of SU 289 at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) on the afternoon of June 02, authoritative sources said.

Sri Lanka grappling with an unprecedented foreign exchange shortage desperately needs tourists from an important destination like Russia, which earlier accounted for a sizeable share of the incoming traffic. Responding to The Island queries, sources said that relevant authorities were in the process of looking into the issue at hand.Having summoned Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Moscow Janitha Abeywickrema Liyanage soon after the incident at the BIA, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a stern warning over the incident.

In the wake of the Russian warning, the then government took measures to lift restrictions imposed on the aircraft that was to be detained till June 16. The detained SU 289 was allowed to leave on June 06.Former Public Security Minister Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera yesterday (18) told The Island that no holds barred investigation was required to ascertain the truth.

Lawmaker Weerasekera said that the government should inform the Parliament of the progress of the investigation and what steps it intended to take as well as measures already taken to mend relations with Russia.

The retired Navy Chief of Staff said that those in authority should investigate whether a court ruling issued in respect of a case filed by Ireland-based Celestial Aviation Trading Company Ltd., against Aeroflot had been manipulated by interested parties.

It transpired that no sooner High Court Judge, S. M. H. S.P. Sethunge, in the Commercial High Court of the Western Province, Attorney-at-Law Aruna de Silva accompanied a fiscal officer of the same Court to the BIA at lightning speed to deliver the ruling.

Lawyer de Silva appeared for the plaintiff with Avindra Rodrigo, PC, (litigation) of FJ & G.de Saram, leading law firm from the colonial times. The law firm has previously declined to comment on this matter.High Court judge Sethunga is on record as having said that he didn’t order the BIA not to permit Aeroflot SU 289 to take off on the afternoon of June 02.

Attorney-at-Law Dasun Nagasena, Coordinating Secretary to Justice Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, PC yesterday (18) said that the Justice Ministry recommended action against the Attorney-at-Law to the Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya, PC. Nagasena said that the fiscal officer who served the Justice Ministry had been interdicted, pending further investigations. As regards the lawyer, it would be handled on the advice of the CJ, the official said. Responding to another query, the official said that the Justice Ministry hadn’t been informed yet of the progress of the investigations.

Ports, Shipping and Aviation Secretary K.D.S. Ruwanchandra yesterday said that ministry officials on Wednesday (17) discussed ways and means of resuming Aeroflot flights with relevant authorities, including the Russian embassy. Ruwanchandra said they were hopeful reaching a consensus on this matter soon. The official said so in response to The Island queries.

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) President Saliya Pieris, PC, yesterday said that they could initiate an inquiry only on the basis of a formal complaint. He said so when The Island asked him whether the BASL initiated an inquiry into the lawyer’s conduct in this regard. The President’s Counsel said that normally the BASL wouldn’t launch an investigation into a matter inquired into by the CJ.

At the time of the BIA incident, Prof. G.L. Peiris had been the minister in charge of foreign affairs. Since the change of government, President Ranil Wickremesinghe has sworn in Ali Sabry, PC, as the new minister of foreign affairs.

Russia has pointed out that action was taken against SU 289 in spite of an assurance given by Sri Lanka in respect of regular flights to Colombo.Sri Lankan Airlines in late March suspended flights to Moscow in the wake of imposition of what the airline called operational restrictions in the wake of war between Russia and Ukraine.

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