India's Serum Institute ties up with industry in push to vaccinate rural areas

India has reported more than 31.5mln coronavirus infections in the world, the most after the United States, with 423,217 deaths

  
Men ride on a motorbike past a supply truck of India's Serum Institute, the world's largest maker of vaccines, which is working on a vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Pune, India, May 18, 2020.

Men ride on a motorbike past a supply truck of India's Serum Institute, the world's largest maker of vaccines, which is working on a vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Pune, India, May 18, 2020.

REUTERS/Euan Rocha

NEW DELHI - The Serum Institute of India (SII) said on Friday it had partnered with an industry body to expand the reach of COVID-19 shots in India's countryside as it had "plenty of supply" of the AstraZeneca drug.

India has reported more than 31.5 million coronavirus infections in the world, the most after the United States, with 423,217 deaths.

While some 452 million vaccine doses have been administered, the pace of inoculations in rural areas, where two-thirds of India's 1.35 billion people live, has lagged that of urban centres.

SII, the world's largest vaccine maker, will be working with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), which has set up vaccination camps in smaller towns and rural areas.

"While SII has manufactured the vaccine at scale within a short period of time, it is essential that all stakeholders work together towards carrying out the inoculations," CEO Adar Poonawalla said about its version of the AstraZeneca drug known as Covishield.

SII stopped all vaccine exports in April to meet India's own demand and has forecast resuming foreign shipments only towards end-2021. Its monthly Covishield production is expected to nearly double to 120 million doses from April levels. 

"India's post-pandemic growth critically rests on how soon the eligible population is vaccinated and economic activities can return to normal," said CII President T.V. Narendran.

(Reporting by Krishna N. Das; Editing by Edwina Gibbs) ((Krishna.Das@tr.com; https://twitter.com/krishnadas56;))


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