The Serum Institute of India (SII), the world’s largest vaccine maker, is considering setting up its first manufacturing plant in Africa as it looks set to expand worldwide after its success in selling Covid-19 shots, its CEO told Reuters on Monday.
Africa is the only continent that has not had its own production capacity for coward shots at the worst stage of the epidemic in the last two years, leaving it at the mercy of foreign suppliers, including SII.
“This is not a good time to be a vaccine maker. I look forward to expanding our production worldwide,” said Adar Punawala, chief executive of SII, in an interview with the World Economic Forum in Davos.
“There are some great countries out there: South Africa, Rwanda, you know, the names we’re looking for.”
Punawala said he was meeting with some African officials in Davos to discuss his plans. Asked about potential investments, he said such projects typically require at least 300 million.
He did not say what products the African plant could produce. In addition to covid shots, SII’s Indian plants produce vaccines for diphtheria, BCG, measles, rubella and other conditions.
Asked about concerns about the rise in the incidence of monkeypox, Punawala said he believes the disease is not so contagious.
“We will wait and see, even if we want to make a vaccine for it,” he said.
Monkeypox is generally mild and endemic to parts of West and Central Africa. The World Health Organization says it expects more cases to be identified as it expands surveillance to countries where the disease is not commonly found.
At Covid, SII has sold more than 1.5 billion doses of AstraZeneca in India AZN.L. Shot made it and branded Covishield and exported millions more.
But now that demand has dwindled, the company is keeping its Indian cove shield facilities on standby and “will not build anything there,” Punawalla said, adding that it could resume output if necessary.
SII has plugged in plans to make and sell about 300 million doses of Russia’s Sputnik Light Covid vaccine. However, it is still making millions of doses of the NovaVax Covid shot version for India and other countries, Punawalla said.
He estimated that the value of privately held SIIs is now about $ 20 billion, but said there were no immediate plans to go public.