INDIA – The Serum Institute of India (SII) has announced that it will export 20-30 million doses of Covishield jab to the WHO-backed global platform Covax by the end of this year and then many more from January.
The World Health Organization (WHO), which co-leads COVAX, has urged India to re-start supplies for the program, particularly after it sent approximately 4 million doses to its neighbors and partners in October.
India’s government issued a moratorium that stopped vaccine exports as the brutal second wave devastated India in the first quarter of this year. COVAX, the global consortium charged with equitably vaccinating the world, was left empty-handed.
It was until India had administered sufficient doses of vaccines to its domestic citizens that the government relaxed the restrictions. In addition to that, commercial contracts were kept at abeyance as vaccine production was procured for domestic use.
India resumed its vaccine exports to Covax facility with the first batch of doses landing in African countries.
In an interview with Axios news, Adar Poonawalla, chief of SII stated that he expects Covishield doses to land in Africa countries starting this week.
“I think by the tenth of November you’re going to see the first — if not a bit sooner — you’re going to see the first doses arrive in Africa,” Poonawalla said.
Unlike the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, Covishield doesn’t need to be stored in freezing temperatures, which makes it ideal for vaccinating people in low-income countries. Covishield is a licensed version of AstraZeneca’s shot manufactured by the Serum Institute of India.
SII has nearly quadrupled its Covishield output to up to 240 million doses per month since April, when India halted all exports to inoculate its own people during a spike in cases.
Once shipments begin, Poonawalla said he expects to send around 30 million doses per month, to COVAX primarily.
There is currently a long list of vaccines in India at various stages of regulatory approval. They include Covavax, Corbevax, ZyCoV-D, Gennova’s mRNA vaccine.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also that COVAX had the money and the contracts to buy vaccines for low-income countries but “manufacturers have not played their part.”
While India’s government is focusing on getting more Indians inoculated with the second jab, it is evident that vaccines supply is no longer a constraint. Vaccine manufacturers are rearing to go out to the world with their exports.