On 29th September, 2020, the Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII) – the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer by volume, announced that, along with Gavi – the Vaccine Alliance, a public-private global health partnership that aims to increase access to immunisation in poor countries, and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, it looked to accelerate the manufacture and delivery of up to a 100 million doses (or 10 crores) of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines for India and other LMICs (Low and Middle Income Countries), as part of the Gavi COVAX AMC, a mechanism within the COVAX Facility. The COVAX Facility seeks to pool in resources to accelerate the development of the most promising Coviod-19 candidates and to make it equitably accessible to all the participating countries, irrespective of their financial muscle.
The initiative brings the total number of vaccine doses to be covered by the partnership to an aggregate of up to 200 million doses, following the initial agreement for up to 100 million doses, announced in August. Besides other tie-ups, SII has also entered a manufacturing partnership with AstraZeneca to produce the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine. Preparations are in progress to conduct phase 3 trials of the candidate vaccine in India.
The collaboration will provide upfront capital to SII to help increase manufacturing capacity. Once a vaccine gains regulatory approval and the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) prequalification, doses can be distributed to LMICs as early as by the first half of next year.
In a statement made by Adar Poonawalla, CEO of SII, “The collaboration further bolsters our fight against Covid-19! Through the avid support of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, we will 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… 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. This association is in line with our efforts to see that the future vaccines reach the remotest part of the world, providing full immunisation coverage in a bid to contain the spread of the pandemic.”
The funding will help accelerate the manufacturing by SII for candidate vaccines licenced from AstraZeneca and Novavax, which will be available for procurement if they are successful in attaining full licensure and the WHO’s prequalification. The vaccines will have a ceiling price of approximately Rs. 320/- per dose. The price point is enabled by investments made by partners such as the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), the Gates Foundation and SII. Under the new collaboration, AstraZeneca’s candidate vaccine, if successful, will be available to 61 Gavi-eligible countries. Novavax’s candidate, if successful, will be available to all 92 countries supported by the Gavi COVAX AMC. These countries align with SII’s licencing agreements with its two partners.