Serum Institute of India (SII) on Friday resumed exports to the international vaccine sharing programme COVAX. The first batches of its Covishield Covid-19 vaccine left the SII manufacturing facility in Pune for distribution to low and middle income countries via the COVAX mechanism. SII’s supply of doses via COVAX is expected to increase substantially in the first quarter of 2022. SII also surpassed the 1.25 billion vaccine doses production at its Pune facility.
The company said resumption of exports was linked to SII surpassing its original target to produce one billion doses of Covishield by the end of this year. SII had reached this milestone ahead of time via rapid expansion of production capacity at its site in Pune, the company said.
SII will bring into production other vaccines under licence, which will include Covovax from US-based company Novavax that received its first Emergency Use Authorisations (EUAs) from regulators in Indonesia and the Philippines. Regulatory reviews are pending for Covovax in India and with the World Health Organization.
Adar Poonawalla, CEO of Serum Institute of India, said, “It’s a huge moment to begin exports again, for us, our partners at COVAX and the low- and middle-income countries we support. The world has largely depended on the low-cost, high-quality pharmaceuticals and vaccines that India has traditionally exported, so we are delighted to support the global vaccination effort once more.”
AstraZeneca, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Gavi, UNICEF and the WHO had shown confidence in SII’s ability to keep on track and they were all hopeful of meeting WHO’s target to vaccinate 70% of the world’s population by the middle of next year, Poonawalla said.
Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which leads the COVAX Facility said the resumption of supplies from Serum Institute was an important development for COVAX as it entered its busiest period yet for shipping vaccines to participating economies. COVAX’s portfolio is now much more diversified than it was earlier this year and Covishield remains an important product, Berkley said.