Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Serum Institute of India Resumes Vaccine Export with COVAX Vaccine Exchange Program

The Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, has resumed exporting coronavirus vaccines with the COVAX partnership, which is distributing vaccines to developing countries. The resumption of exports comes at a critical time when a new variant found in South Africa is causing global concern.

India suspended vaccine exports this March following a spike in infections during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic as it used its stocks to ramp up its domestic vaccination program.

The first deliveries went out on Friday.

“This will go a long way towards restoring equity in vaccine supply around the world,” Serum Institute CEO Adar Punavalla said on Twitter.

The company said in a press statement that it expects a significant increase in the supply of vaccines for COVAX in early 2022. The Serum Institute of India was expected to become one of the main providers of the vaccine sharing facility, which was set up to ensure global equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines following the outbreak of the pandemic.

The Serum Institute linked the resumption of exports to surpassing its target of 1 billion doses of AstraZeneca vaccine by the end of this year – having produced 1.25 billion doses to date.

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which leads the COVAX program with the World Health Organization, called the resumption of exports from India an important development “as it enters the busiest period of vaccine supply to participating countries.”

India’s export restrictions have posed a huge obstacle to COVAX’s efforts, which relied on the supply of affordable and easy-to-stock AstraZeneca vaccine from the Serum Institute of India for distribution to low-income countries. The vaccine is called Covishield in India.

“While the COVAX portfolio is now much more diversified than it was at the beginning of this year when we received our first SII shipments, COVISHIELD remains an important product that can help us protect hundreds of millions of people in the coming months,” Seth said. Berkeley, Executive Director of GAVI, Vaccine Alliance.

India has allowed exports to resume as its vaccination program has advanced significantly and vaccine supplies have improved – about 80% of the country received a single dose and about 40% are fully vaccinated. Coronavirus cases have also dropped sharply, with about 9,000 cases reported in India on Friday.

However, a new variant discovered in South Africa, dubbed the omicron, is causing widespread concern and prompting Indian experts to caution against complacency. As an option of concern to the World Health Organization, omicron has already been spotted in Belgium, Botswana, Israel and Hong Kong and has prompted several countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, to impose travel restrictions.

India said it is expanding the screening of passengers from overseas. At a meeting on Saturday to address the pandemic, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked officials to reconsider plans to ease restrictions on international travel.

“In light of the new option, we remain vigilant with a focus on containment and securing increased coverage with the second dose,” he tweeted.

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