The Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII) on Tuesday committed to producing an additional 100 million doses of the vaccine it is testing. This brings the total number of doses to 200 million to be available at $3 a dose to a group of at least 61 ‘low and middle income countries (LMIC)’ that includes India. This arrangement doesn’t make clear how many of the 200 million doses will be made available to India.
“The collaboration further bolsters up our fight against COVID-19. Through the avid support of Gavi and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), we will now manufacture and deliver up to an additional 100 million doses of immunogenic and safe-proven future COVID-19 vaccines to India and low- and middle-income countries in 2021,” said Adar Poonawalla, CEO of Serum Institute of India “At this stage, It is important for governments, global health and financial institutions in the public and private sector to come together in ensuring that no one is left behind in the road to recovery”.
Initial seed funding
The Gavi COVAX is an international collaboration involving the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness that is coordinating the development of several probable vaccines. They have also devised an arrangement to ensure that all countries--irrespective of their wealth--are able to vaccinate a minimum percentage of their population. To ensure that LMIC countries do so, it is currently seeking at least $2 billion in initial seed funding, which will meet at least part of the cost of procurement for the vaccine doses. About $700 million have been arranged, according to the GAVI.
Under the new collaboration, AstraZeneca’s candidate vaccine, if successful, will be available to 61 Gavi-eligible countries. The Novavax candidate, if successful, will be available to all 92 countries supported by the Gavi COVAX AMC. These countries align with SII’s licensing agreements with the two partners. SII is among the companies that will be manufacturing both these vaccines. Currently Covishield, as the AstraZeneca vaccine candidate is brand-named in India, is being tested in phase-3 trials in the country.
Whether a vaccine should be administered as a single dose or a double dose too is being tested.
The BMGF, via its Strategic Investment Fund, has so far contributed $300 million, which is being used to support SII in manufacturing potential vaccine candidates, and for future procurement of vaccines via the GAVI Covax alliance.