Adar Poonawalla, chief executive officer of Serum Institute of India, said that he wanted to be prepared for a “pandemic level event” ever since he heard Bill Gates in a TED talk. Poonawalla’s comments came during the second session of the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit; Day 1, ‘Covid-19: Where Do We Stand’.
“I wanted to be prepared for a pandemic level event ever since I heard Bill Gates in a TED talk where he clearly said that we should be more worried and prepared for such situations,” Poonawalla told HT’s health and science editor, Sanchita Sharma, on Thursday.
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Poonawalla was referring to Gates’ moving TED Talk few years ago wherein he warned against the possible rise of an infectious disease, also pointing out the state of ill-preparedness against such an event.
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“If anything kills over 10 million people in the next few decades, it’s most likely to be a highly infectious virus rather than a war. Not missiles, but microbes. Now, part of the reason for this is that we’ve invested a huge amount in nuclear deterrents. But we’ve actually invested very little in a system to stop an epidemic. We’re not ready for the next epidemic,” Gates had said.
During the summit, Poonawalla shared that the Oxford vaccine will take about 3-4 months to be made available to the public and could cost between Rs 500-600. However, he said that it could take a few more years before every Indian is vaccinated and protected against the deadly virus.
“It will be 2024, till everybody will get vaccinated and protected,” he noted.
Speaking on the possible “side-effects” of the Oxford Covid-19 vaccine, Poonawalla said, some of the mild symptoms that were noted across different age groups included, “fever, weakness, headache, normal cold”, which went away in a day or two after giving paracetamol, he said.
The first session of Day 1 of the HT Leadership Summit saw Hindustan Times editor-in-chief Sukumar Ranganathan discuss the pandemic and its many aspects with Dr Randeep Guleria, director of All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and Dr Ashish K Jha, dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health.
While Dr Guleria described India as a “resilient nation” in the face of the raging pandemic, he also called more investment in the public sector and involvement of healthcare professionals. Dr Jha, on the other hand, warned against the challenge of making the Covid-19 vaccine accessible to all. The experts also expressed delight and excitement over the breakthrough in Covid-19 vaccine recently reported by leading pharmaceutical giants Moderna and Pfizer.
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