Serum Institute of India's Chief Adar Poonawalla was forced to flee the country as he was receiving death threats from the Centre, a Maharashtra minister claimed on Monday, adding that the Pune-based vaccine manufacturer had promised to provide 1.5 crore doses of Covishield vaccine to the state.
Hasan Mushrif, the state rural development and labour minister and a senior leader of the Nationalist Congress Party, said Poonawalla was a good friend of party chief Sharad Pawar.
"Our Serum Insititute of India's Chief Adar Poonawalla, whose Covishield is being inoculated across the country, was forced to flee to England following death threats by the Centre. Poonawalla is a good friend of NCP chief Sharad Pawar ji. Serum Institute chief had promised to provide 1.5 crore doses of Covid vaccines to Maharashtra. However, following the threats by the Centre, this proposal did not happen," Mushrif said addressing a press conference in Ahmednagar, reported ANI.
The minister said that the Maharashtra government aims to vaccinate people aged above 45 years on a priority. “Vaccines by Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson etc need to be jabbed soon,” he said.
Mushrif’s comments came hours before Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a centralised vaccine drive in the country and said those above 18 would get free vaccine from June 21. Speaking in a televised address to the nation on Monday evening, Modi said the Union government would procure all vaccines and give them to states for free.
Earlier in a press statement, the Union health ministry said more than 24 crore vaccine doses have been provided to states and Union territories so far, through the Government of India’s free of cost channel and through direct state procurement category.