Serum Institute to produce up to 100 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine for India & other countries

Pic: ANI

Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII) has entered into a strategic partnership with international vaccine alliance Gavi and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to produce up to 100 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine for India and other nations, primarily low and middle-income families, as early as 2021.

Announcing the collaboration through a statement, Serum Institute said, “Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, via its Strategic Investment Fund, will provide at-risk funding of US$150 million to Gavi, which will be used to support the SII to manufacture the potential vaccine candidates. Vaccines will be priced at maximum US$ 3 per dose and made available to the 92 countries included in Gavi’s COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC).”

The collaboration will provide upfront capital to SII to help them increase manufacturing capacity now so that, once a vaccine, or vaccines, gains regulatory approval and WHO prequalification, doses can be produced at scale for distribution to India and low and middle income countries.

The funding will support at-risk manufacturing by SII for candidate vaccines from AstraZeneca and Novavax, which will be available for procurement if they are successful in attaining full licensure and WHO Prequalification. SII has set an affordable ceiling price of US$ 3 per dose. The arrangement also provides an option to secure additional doses if the vaccines pillar of the ACT Accelerator sees a need for it.

“In an attempt to make our fight against COVID-19 stronger and all-embracing; SII has partnered with Gavi and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to advance the manufacturing and delivery of up to 100 million doses of future COVID vaccines for India and low and middle income countries in 2021,” said Adar Poonawalla, CEO of Serum Institute of India.

“The rampant spread of the virus has rendered the entire world in an unimaginable halt of uncertainty. And to ensure maximum immunization coverage and contain the pandemic, it is important to make sure that the most remote and poorest countries of the world have access to affordable cure and preventive measures. Through this association, we seek to ramp up our constant efforts to save the lives of millions of people from this dreadful disease,” Poonawalla said.

World’s largest vaccine manufacturer by volume, SII shares a long history of successful partnerships with Gavi and pharmaceutical companies to manufacture vaccines that protect against meningitis, severe diarrhoea, pneumonia and measles.

Dr. Renu Swarup, Secretary, Department of Biotechnology, Government of India, shared, “India has a proven track record of manufacturing safe and cost-effective vaccines not only for India, but for the world. Over the last decade, Government of India has encouraged innovation, and supported the Indian vaccine industry to manufacture high quality, affordable indigenous tools and products to benefit India and the world. We are very happy to see SII enter this global partnership to respond to the global health crisis posed by Covid-19.”

Dr Balram Bhargava, Director General of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), commented, “India’s has demonstrated consistent capability in delivering on low-cost and high-quality medical research, while also maintaining technical and scientific rigour. ICMR is deeply supportive of our cutting edge vaccine research and manufacturing prowess, of which SII is one prominent example. This partnership signifies yet another step in India’s efforts to bolster the fight against this global pandemic.”

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The Gavi COVAX AMC, which is currently seeking at least US$ 2 billion in initial seed funding, will meet at least part of the cost of procurement for the vaccine doses. Last week the Gavi Board agreed the final list of 92 countries that will be supported by the AMC. Under the new collaboration, AstraZeneca’s candidate vaccine, if successful, will be available to 57 Gavi-eligible countries. Novavax’s candidate, if successful, will be available to all 92 countries supported by the AMC.

The collaboration between Gavi, SII, and the Gates Foundation supports the efforts of the ACT Accelerator’s vaccines pillar, also known as COVAX, co-led by Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the World Health Organization (WHO), to accelerate the development of COVID-19 vaccines and ensure rapid, global access to them. Decisions around investment in manufacturing are taken in close collaboration between these three lead organisations of the COVAX pillar.

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