The pre-qualification by WHO will enable the company to export to countries in Africa and other low- and middle-income countries under the COVAX initiative. SII will export 20 million doses of the Covishield vaccine by February-end to COVAX countries. It has manufactured 100 million doses so far.
Adar Poonawalla, CEO of SII, had earlier said everybody worldwide was looking forward to the vaccine in large volumes and at an affordable price from India. “Around 50-60% of the world’s vaccines are made in India,” he had said. He had also said there was enough stock to supply to the Indian government and to export.
India has so far ordered 21 million Covishield doses to immunise frontline health workers and has vaccinated 85,00,000 people with the first dose and 1,60,291 people with the second dose, so far.
SII has a deal to supply 1.1 billion doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford and Novavax Covid-19 vaccines to the COVAX Facility, of which 550 million will be the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine.
WHO on Monday announced that two versions of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccines — produced by Serum Institute and SK Bio, South Korea — were listed for emergency use and were to be rolled out globally through COVAX.
WHO expects these vaccines to reach other countries in the coming weeks. Its review found that the vaccines have 63.09% efficacy and are suitable for low- and middle-income countries due to easy storage requirements.
SII has collaborated with the GAVI vaccine alliance and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to supply 200 million doses in 2021 at $3 per dose. This arrangement also provides an option to secure additional doses, potentially several times the 200 million dose total, if the COVAX Facility sees a need for it. SII received funding of $300 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Strategic Investment Fund to fast-track the manufacture of the vaccine. The vaccine is to be made available to 92 countries.
“Countries with no access to vaccines to date will finally be able to start vaccinating their health workers and populations at risk, contributing to the COVAX Facility’s goal of equitable vaccine distribution,” said Dr Mariângela Simão, WHO’s assistant director general for Access to Medicines and Health Products.
SII has created the largest pandemic level facility at its Manjri plant in Pune, taking its capacity to 1.2 billion doses a year. Production is expected to pick up after the WHO pre-qualification.