Serum Institute of India (SII) has announced that it has entered into a new partnership with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to accelerate the manufacture and delivery of upto 100 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines for India and low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).

“Bill & 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 potential vaccine candidates, and for future procurement of vaccines for low- and middle-income countries,” noted a statement issued by SII.

It said the collaboration would provide upfront capital to SII to help them increase the manufacturing capacity now so that, once a vaccine, or vaccines, gain(s) regulatory approval and World Health Organisation (WHO) pre-qualification, doses could be produced at scale for distribution to India and LMICs, as early as the first half of 2021.

“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 pre-qualification. SII has set a ceiling price of US$ 3 per dose. The arrangement also provides an option to secure additional doses,” noted the release.

It quoted SII CEO Adar Poonawalla as saying that they had partnered with Gavi and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to advance the manufacturing and delivery of up to 100 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines for India and LMICs in 2021.

“SII has earlier partnered with Gavi and pharmaceutical companies to manufacture vaccines that protect against meningitis, severe diarrhea, pneumonia and measles. The current deal now builds on a MoU between AstraZeneca and Gavi, announced in June, which will guarantee 300 million doses of AstraZeneca’s candidate vaccine to the wider COVAX facility, to be supplied upon licensure or prequalification. These two deals can help guarantee access to early doses for the most vulnerable on a truly global scale,” said the company.

Renu Swarup, Secretary, Department of Biotechnology, said, “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, the 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.”

Global health partnership
GAVI, backed by the Gates Foundation, is a public-private global health partnership with the goal of increasing access to immunisation in poor countries. It co-leads COVAX – a program to provide equal access to COVID-19 vaccine when available.

Gavi had launched the Gavi Advance Market Commitment for COVID-19 Vaccines (Gavi Covax AMC) in June. This is a new financing instrument aimed at incentivising vaccine manufacturers to produce sufficient quantities of eventual COVID-19 vaccines, and to ensure access for developing countries.

The Gavi Covax AMC was launched with an initial goal of raising US$ 2 billion; enough for Gavi-supported countries to immunise healthcare workers as well as high-risk individuals, and create a flexible buffer of doses to be deployed where needed most.

“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 to a 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,” stated the SII statement.

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