Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday visited Ahmedabad, Hyderabad and Pune to review the development and manufacturing process of coronavirus vaccines at facilities in these cities. He visited the Zydus Biotech Park in Ahmedabad, Bharat Biotech in Hyderabad and Serum Institute of India in Pune.
"The scientists expressed joy that the Prime Minister met them face to face in order to boost their morale and help accelerate their efforts at this critical juncture in the vaccine development journey," an official statement said. "The Prime Minister expressed pride in the fact that Indias indigenous vaccine development has progressed at such a rapid pace so far. He spoke on how India is following sound principles of science in the entire journey of vaccine development, while also asking for suggestions to make the vaccine distribution process better," it said.
The statement said Modi stressed that India considers vaccines as not only vital to good health but also as a global good, and it is Indias duty to assist other countries, including the nations in our neighbourhood, in the collective fight against the virus. "He (Modi) asked the scientists to express their free and frank opinion on how the country could further improve its regulatory process. The scientists also presented an overview of how they are also developing various new and repurposed drugs to better fight COVID-19," it said.
Modi began by visiting pharma major Zydus Cadila's manufacturing facility near Ahmedabad. Wearing a PPE kit, he reviewed the vaccine development process at the company's research centre, located over 20 km from Ahmedabad. Modi was extensively briefed about the vaccine work at the plant by the company officials. He was briefed about the vaccine production procedure. He interacted with scientists and vaccine developers, an official said.
"Visited the Zydus Biotech Park in Ahmedabad to know more about the indigenous DNA based vaccine being developed by Zydus Cadila. I compliment the team behind this effort for their work. Government of India is actively working with them to support them in this journey," Modi tweeted after the visit. Zydus Cadila chairman Pankaj Patel recently said the company is aiming to complete the vaccine trial by March 2021, and could produce up to 100 million doses a year.
Modi, who landed at Ahmedabad at 9.10 am, spent over an hour at the plant, before leaving for the airport, from where he left for Hyderabad at 11.40 am. Modi landed at Hakimpet Air Force station near Hyderabad around 1 pm and proceeded to pharma major Bharat Biotech's vaccine manufacturing facility at Genome valley, located around 20 km from the air station, by road.
At the facility, he reviewed the progress of Covaxin, a vaccine candidate being developed by the company. He also interacted with Bharat Biotech Chairman and Managing Director Krishna Ella, scientists and senior management. "At the Bharat Biotech facility in Hyderabad, was briefed about their indigenous COVID-19 vaccine. Congratulated the scientists for their progress in the trials so far. Their team is closely working with ICMR to facilitate speedy progress," Modi tweeted after his hour-long visit there.
After leaving the facility, Modi got down from his vehicle at the main gate and waved to media persons and the cheering crowd standing nearby. Covaxin, being developed by Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research and National Institute of Virology, is undergoing phase-3 trials.
At 3.20 pm, Modi took off for Pune, where he landed at 4.30 pm on the last leg of his three-city vaccine work review visit. Modi then proceeded by helicopter to the campus of the Serum Institute of India (SII) at Manjari, located 17 km from the airport. At the Serum Institute of India, Modi reviewed the progress of the 'Covishield' vaccine being made there.
Modi interacted with scientists at the Serum Institute and had a walkabout of the facility, taking stock of vaccine development work being carried out there. At the facility, Modi was received by Dr Cyrus Poonawalla, chairman of Poonwalla Group, and his son and SII CEO Adar Poonawalla. They briefed Modi about the work being carried out at SII.
Modi interacted with the Poonawallas, scientists and other executives, who briefed him on the vaccine's progress. "Had a good interaction with the team at Serum Institute of India. They shared details about their progress so far on how they plan to further ramp up vaccine manufacturing. Also took a look at their manufacturing facility," Modi tweeted after his SII visit.
Serum Institute of India has partnered with global pharma giant AstraZeneca and Oxford University for the vaccine. Modi left from SII for Pune airport around 6 pm and took off for Delhi at 6.25 pm, an official said.