Serum Institute to produce additional 100 million doses of Covid vaccine

Our Bureau Mumbai | Updated on September 29, 2020

Ties up with Gavi, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Vaccine-maker Serum Institute of India (SII) will produce another 100 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine, when one is available, furthering an existing collaboration with Gavi and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BGMF). 

The manufacture and delivery of additional doses for India and low and middle income countries is facilitated through the Gavi COVAX AMC, a mechanism within the COVAX Facility (that focusses on getting affordable vaccines). 

As a result, the total number of vaccine doses covered by the partnership between SII, Gavi, and BGMF goes up to about 200 million doses, following the initial agreement for up to 100 million doses announced in August, a note from SII said. 

“The collaboration will provide upfront capital to SII to help it increase manufacturing capacity now so that, once a vaccine gains regulatory approval and WHO Pre-qualification, doses can be distributed at scale to LMICs as part of the Gavi COVAX AMC mechanism as early as the first half of 2021, the note said without giving details. It did, however, indicate that the BMGF, via its Strategic Investment Fund, will provide at-risk funding of a further $150 million to Gavi, bringing the total funding provided through this collaboration to $300 million. And this would be used to support SII capacity to produce for now and later, the note said. 

Over the weekend, SII Chief Executive Adar Poonawalla had stirred-up a discussion on vaccine procurement and distribution in the country, by saying the government would need about ₹80,000 crore for the same. “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,” Poonawalla said. 

The arrangement further provided an option to secure more doses if the vaccines pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator saw a need for it, SII said. 

Vaccine price

The funding will help accelerate the manufacturing by SII for candidate vaccines licensed from AstraZeneca and Novavax, which will be available for procurement if they are successful in attaining full licensure and WHO Pre-qualification, the note said. The vaccines will have a ceiling price $3 per dose, a price enabled by investments made by partners such as the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), the BMGF and SII. 

The Gavi COVAX AMC, currently seeking at least $2 billion in initial seed funding, will meet part of the cost of procurement for the vaccine doses. The Gavi Board has agreed on the 92 countries, supported by the Gavi COVAX AMC. If successful, AstraZeneca’s candidate vaccine will be available to 61 Gavi-eligible countries and Novavax’s candidate to 92 such countries. These countries align with SII’s licensing agreements with the two partners. 

The deal is in addition to a memorandum of understanding between AstraZeneca and Gavi, announced in June, which committed an additional 300 million doses of AstraZeneca’s candidate vaccine to the wider COVAX facility. 

Published on September 29, 2020

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