The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will provide $150 million to Gavi, which will be directed to the Serum Institute of India (SII) to fund the additional 10 crore COVID-19 vaccine doses for low and middle-income countries.
The fund transfer will be conducted through the Foundation’s Strategic Investment Fund and will take the total funding provided by this collaboration to $300 million.
“At this stage, it is important for governments, global health and financial institutions in the public and private sector to come together in ensuring that no one is left behind in the road to recovery. This association is in line with our efforts to see that the future vaccines reach the remotest part of the world providing full immunisation coverage in a bid to contain the spread of the pandemic," Adar Poonawalla, CEO of Serum Institute of India said.
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SII will utilise the fund to manufacture potential vaccine candidates, and for future procurement of vaccines for India and other low and middle-income countries. It will also help accelerate SII’s licensed manufacture of candidate COVID-19 vaccines from AstraZeneca and Novavax.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
Both AstraZeneca and Novavax’s candidates would be available for procurement once WHO prequalification and full license if received.
SII on September 29 said it aims to make an additional 10 crore doses of COVID-19 vaccine for low and middle-income countries, as part of its tie-up with the Gates Foundation and Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance.
With this, the collaboration of the three organisations will now produce a total of 20 crore vaccine doses for poorer nations. SII had set a ceiling price of $3 (approximately Rs 225) per dose.
This alliance would provide upfront capital to SII to help increase manufacturing capacity so that once a vaccine or vaccines, gains necessary regulatory approvals, doses can be distributed at scale to low and middle-income countries as part of the Gavi COVAX AMC mechanism.
So far 73 higher-income economies have formally committed to joining the Facility, in addition to the 92 low- and middle-income economies that are eligible for support from the Gavi COVAX AMC.
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(With inputs from PTI)