Adar Poonawalla, the leader of a major vaccine manufacturer, said he fled India because of threats.
Poonawalla leads the Serum Institute, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer.
He said the situation in India was so dire that people accused him of delaying vaccines on purpose.
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The CEO of the Serum Institute, a vaccine manufacturer in India, said he fled the country because of incessant threats against him.
In an interview with The Times of London published on Saturday, Adar Poonawalla said he went to England to escape threats from people claiming he’s holding up COVID-19 vaccines.
“‘Threats’ is an understatement,” Poonawalla said. “The level of expectation and aggression is really unprecedented.”
“It’s overwhelming. Everyone feels they should get the vaccine. They can’t understand why anyone else should get it before them,” he added. “They are saying if you don’t give us the vaccine it’s not going to be good. It’s not foul language. It’s the tone. It’s the implication of what they might do if I don’t comply.”
The Serum Institute is the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, producing more than 60 million doses a month of the AstraZeneca and Oxford vaccine.
Poonawalla told The Times he’d stay in England for “an extended time, because I don’t want to go back to that situation.”
“Everything falls on my shoulders, but I can’t do it alone,” he added.
But hours after the interview was published, Poonawalla said on Twitter that he’d return to India “in a few days.”
India has experienced large surges in positive COVID-19 cases. The nation reported a record high of 401,993 new cases on Saturday. No other country has breached 400,000 daily cases.
Crematoriums across India are overwhelmed with bodies. People are dying as hospitals run out of oxygen. The country had reported more than 300,000 new cases each day for nine days before hitting 400,000.
India also reported more than 3,500 deaths on Saturday – the fourth day in a row that the count surpassed 3,000. But the deaths are likely undercounted. A New York Times investigation published on April 24 found “mounting evidence” that deaths were being “overlooked or downplayed” by the government.
Poonawalla told The Times of London that the situation had gotten so bad that people had surrounded his company multiple times and called him a “profiteer” of the COVID-19 vaccines.
“I don’t think even God could have forecast it was going to get this bad,” Poonawalla said.
Morgan McFall-Johnsen contributed to this report.
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