Serum Institute of India gets $150 mn booster shot
The new collaboration is a step forward in rolling out an additional 100 million doses of safe and effective Covid-19 vaccines for low and middle-income countries.
As the coronavirus death toll rises globally, with over 5,400 people dying on average every 24 hours, a bleak picture emerges. And yet to evoke the beginning of Charles Dickens' Tale of Two Cities, this appears to be paradoxical times, “an age darkness, an age of light,” for even as the world staggers under the mounting number of Covid-19 cases and deaths, the fight to find a vaccine is being fought out with equal resilience.
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India leading charge for vaccine search
It should come as no surprise that Indian institutes are in the lead, both in developing a vaccine and boosting manufacturing in order to roll it out enmasse. Only last month, Wockhardt, one of India's leading pharmaceutical companies signed up to complete fill and finish work on millions of Covid-19 vaccine doses for exclusive use in the UK.
But India is also intent on ensuring everyone gets access to the cure once one is found.
“As the largest vaccine producing country of the world ... India′s vaccine production and delivery capacity will be used to help all humanity in fighting this crisis,” Prime Minister said during his virtual speech at the UN General Assembly.
Vaccine for all
In a recent development and one which will gain much mileage once a successful vaccine is developed is the announcement of a further collaboration between the Serum Institute of India, the world's largest vaccine manufacturer by volume, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and GAVI vaccines alliance. The latest collaboration which will speed up the manufacture and delivery of up to an additional 100 million doses of safe and effective Covid-19 vaccines for low and middle-income countries. This brings the total number of vaccine doses to be covered by the partnership between SII, Gavi, and the Gates Foundation to an aggregate of up to 200 million doses, following the initial agreement announced in August.
The news comes as the Gates Foundation and GAVI doubled their funding. The extra funds will help Serum boost manufacturing of the vaccine candidates from AstraZeneca Plc and Novavax Inc, for delivery under the COVAX scheme as early as the first half of 2021. The total funding provided is now $300 million, and the expanded collaboration also has an option for the provision of additional doses as needed.
The silver lining
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. The Gavi Board has agreed upon the final list of 92 countries that will be supported by the Gavi COVAX AMC. Under the new collaboration, AstraZeneca's candidate vaccine, if successful, will be available to 61 AMC-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 licensing agreements with the two partners.
The COVAX plan, co-led by the World Health Organization (WHO) and GAVI, aims to deliver 2 billion vaccine doses around the world by the end of 2021. More than 150 nations have joined the plan, though China and the United States have not signed up.
India, meanwhile, is also leading its own independent efforts in developing a successful vaccine. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare recently announced on that the first vaccine in India will most likely be available by early 2021. According to ANI, Union health minister Dr Harsh Vardhan said, “Research to develop a vaccine is being done expeditiously. There are at least 3 viable such vaccine candidates that are in the phase of clinical trials right now in the country. We're hopeful that within 1st quarter of 2021 it will be available.”