Pune, near Mumbai, is a sprawling city that is home to a company typical of ‘New India’. The Serum Institute of India, owned by the multibillionaire Cyrus Poonawalla, is the world’s largest producer of vaccines by volume.
Poonawalla’s empire of injectables is part of a thriving Indian vaccine industry that supplies the World Health Organization, UNICEF and the World Bank and exports to 150 countries. It is also based in a country that has one of the lowest levels of vaccination coverage outside sub-Saharan Africa. Almost three out of four deaths of Indian children under the age of five are caused by diseases that are preventable by vaccination. While the Indian vaccine industry thrives, the deficit between India’s manufacturing success and its ability to achieve basic public health targets goes largely unnoticed by mainstream media.