Monday, January 17, 2022

Serum Institute of India Resumes Export of COVAX Vaccine

NEW DELHI (AP) – The Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, resumed exporting coronavirus vaccines for the UN-backed COVAX distribution program on Friday after stopping most overseas sales in March.

The company was supposed to be the main supplier of COVAX, but a surge in business in India led to a halt in exports. At the time, the Serum Institute had contracts for the supply of COVAX 200 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccines and outstanding contracts for the supply of another 350 million. The suspension has been a major obstacle to global efforts to equitably distribute vaccines.

GAVI, the vaccine alliance that jointly operates the COVAX program, said the company provided just under 30 million doses.

The Serum Institute said in a statement that the number of new infections in India has fallen to its lowest level in months, and the first new COVAX exports for Tajikistan are shipped Friday night. He said he expects a significant increase in exports in early 2022.

He said he has already produced over a billion doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine under license, almost all for home use.

The Serum Institute also began licensed production of Novawax vaccine in June. Experts say the vaccine, which has received the green light from regulatory agencies in Indonesia and the Philippines, is easier to store and transport than some others, and could play an important role in increasing the global supply of vaccines.

With the addition of a new vaccine, “we can hope more that the WHO target of vaccinating 70% of the world’s population by the middle of next year will be achieved,” said Adar Punavalla, executive director of the Serum Institute.

While the coronavirus restrictions have been lifted in India, the country, like others, is nervous after discovering a disturbing new variant in southern Africa. The federal government has asked states to expand screening for travelers from certain countries and genetic sequencing of any infections found.

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This story corrects the fact that the first vaccines are sent to Tajikistan and not to Nepal.

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Associated Press author Jamie Keithen of Geneva contributed to this report.

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The Associated Press Department of Health and Science receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. AP is solely responsible for all content.

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