The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has decided to provide $ 150 million in at-risk funding to help the Serum Institute of India rapidly manufacture the Covid-19 vaccines developed by the University of Oxford-AstraZeneca and Novavax. As part of this new agreement, SII will be responsible for administering up to 100 million doses of the vaccines at a price of $ 3 (around Rs 225) per dose for India and low- and middle-income countries.
The collaboration, which involves GAVI, The Vaccine Alliance, will provide SII with “seed capital” through the Foundation’s Strategic Investment Funds. This is expected to help the Pune-based vaccine manufacturer increase its manufacturing capacity to produce one or both vaccines “in scale” for distribution. Once they receive regulatory approvals and WHO prequalification, the doses are expected to be produced “as early as the first half of 2021,” according to the SII. The distribution will be made through the COVAX mechanism.
COVAX, co-chaired by GAVI, as well as the Coalition for Innovations in Epidemic Preparedness (CEPI) and the WHO, aims to discourage bilateral agreements for Covid-19 vaccines and instead improve equitable access. This is done by raising funds from donor countries to purchase vaccines primarily for low- and middle-income countries, including GAVI nations such as India.
Under the COVAX umbrella, Gavi is leading a COVAX installation, which is expected to provide governments with the opportunity to benefit from a “large” portfolio of Covid-19 candidate vaccines developed using a variety of technology platforms. The facility is bolstered by COVAX’s Advanced Market Commitment (AMC), which currently seeks at least $ 2 billion in initial seed funding, and will cover “at least part” of the acquisition cost of vaccine doses for all 92 countries. to be supported by it.
Under the new collaboration, AstraZeneca’s vaccine candidate, 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, according to the SII.
Novavax announced an agreement with the SII on Wednesday night. The alliance gives the Indian company exclusive rights to supply the vaccine in India and non-exclusive rights “during the period of the pandemic” to supply it to countries that the World Bank has not designated as “middle or high income”.
Earlier this year, SII had raised about $ 100 million to invest in developing its capacity to make just Oxford’s candidate vaccine, which it calls “Covishield” in India. This candidate is undergoing late-stage human testing with thousands of volunteers in various countries and the SII is expected to begin a similar trial in India with 1,600 participants next week.