Covishield-maker Serum Institute of India has resumed vaccine exports for distribution to low- and middle-income nations under the global vaccine-sharing programme COVAX.
In a statement, Serum Institute of India, or SII, chief executive Adar Poonawalla said the world has largely depended on the low-cost, high-quality pharmaceuticals and vaccines that India has traditionally exported. “We are delighted to support the global vaccination effort once more,” Mr Poonawalla said.
The total number of Covishield doses manufactured so far has crossed the 1.25 billion mark, according to the Pune-headquartered company.
The first batches of Covishield marked for exports left the SII’s Pune facility this morning. The company expects its vaccine exports to increase substantially by the first quarter of 2022.
To bolster its COVID-19 vaccine output even further, SII will bring into production other vaccines under licence. These include Covovax, from US-based company Novavax, which received its first emergency use authorisations from regulators in Indonesia and the Philippines this month, SII said in the statement today.
Further regulatory reviews are pending for Covovax in India and with the World Health Organisation, and Novavax has also submitted several additional regulatory filings for its vaccine around the world.
“I want to thank our workforce for their superhuman efforts in achieving this major milestone, with 1 billion doses of Covishield now produced by SII. We started to invest at-risk in COVID-19 vaccine production back in March 2020 and Serum Institute colleagues have worked tirelessly ever since to get these life-saving doses to people. It’s a huge moment to begin exports again, for us, our partners at Covax and the low- and middle-income countries we support,” Mr Poonawalla said.
The SII chief executive also thanked the Indian company’s global partners including AstraZeneca, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Gavi, UNICEF and the WHO “for their unwavering patience and confidence in our ability to keep on track.”
Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the vaccine alliance which leads the Covax facility said the resumption of supplies from SII is an important development as it enters its busiest period yet for shipping vaccines to participating economies.
“While Covax’s portfolio is now much more diversified than it was earlier this year when we received our first SII deliveries, Covishield remains an important product which has the potential to help us protect hundreds of millions of people in the months ahead,” Dr Berkley said.
SII is the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer by number of doses produced and sold globally (more than 1.5 billion doses), supplying the world’s least-expensive and WHO-accredited vaccines to as many as 170 countries. It was founded in 1966.