Serum Institute of India (SII) today announces it has resumed exports to the international vaccine sharing programme COVAX.
The first batches of its COVISHIELD COVID-19 vaccine left the SII manufacturing facility in Pune earlier on Friday, for distribution to low- and middle-income countries via the COVAX mechanism. SII’s supply of doses via COVAX is expected to increase substantially into first quarter of 2022, Serum Institute said in a press release.
“ The resumption of exports is linked to SII surpassing its original target to produce 1 billion doses of COVISHIELD by the end of this year. SII has reached this milestone ahead of time via rapid expansion of production capacity at its site in Pune” Serum added.
To bolster its COVID-19 vaccine output even further, SII will bring into production other vaccines under licence. These include COVOVAX, from US-based company Novavax, which received its first Emergency Use Authorisations (EUAs) from regulators in Indonesia and the Philippines this month. Further regulatory reviews are pending for COVOVAX in India and with the World Health Organisation, and Novavax has also submitted several additional regulatory filings for its vaccine around the world.
Adar Poonawalla, CEO of Serum Institute of India said, “ I want to thank our workforce for their superhuman efforts in achieving this major milestone, with 1 billion doses of COVISHIELD. We started to invest at-risk in COVID-19 vaccine production back in March 2020 and Serum Institute colleagues have worked tirelessly ever since to get these life-saving doses to people”
He added, “ It's a huge moment to begin exports again, for us, our partners at COVAX and the low- and middle-income countries we support. The world has largely depended on the low-cost, high-quality pharmaceuticals and vaccines that India has traditionally exported, so we are delighted to support the global vaccination effort once more”.
Poonawalla thanked global partners including AstraZeneca, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Gavi, UNICEF and the WHO for their “ unwavering patience and confidence in our ability to keep on track”.
“ With these global collaborations and new COVID-19 vaccines such as COVOVAX entering our production lines, we can be more hopeful that WHO’s target to vaccinate 70 per cent of the world’s population by the middle of next year can be met. Beyond this, we will continue to work hand in hand with our global partners on our promising programmes in HPV and malaria and we will continue to fight health inequality globally by making vaccines more accessible and affordable” he said.
Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance which leads the COVAX Facility said “The resumption of supplies from Serum Institute of India is an important development for COVAX as it enters its busiest period yet for shipping vaccines to participating economies. While COVAX’s portfolio is now much more diversified than it was earlier this year when we received our first SII deliveries, COVISHIELD remains an important product which has the potential to help us protect hundreds of millions of people in the months ahead."
“UNICEF welcomes the announcement that India is about to resume COVID-19 vaccine export to COVAX. It is a much-needed critical support that can help countries of the world to be protected and to recover from the pandemic. As long as the pandemic lingers, its adverse effects will continue on essential services such as health, education and protection for children and young people. The vaccines sharing through COVAX can help tackle the crisis. The global society and countries are dependent on each other to emerge from the pandemic, together. India's recent move to share doses is an encouraging one. We are keen to see the plan in action and other countries benefiting from it,” said Yasumasa Kimura, UNICEF India Representative.
Throughout the pandemic, SII has also been able to maintain its supply of non-COVID-19 vaccines to low- and middle-income countries, including vaccines for polio, measles and pneumococcal disease, Serum added.