Indian vaccine giant pledges 100M more coronavirus shots as part of Gates-funded troika

Vaccines
The Serum Institute of India is pledging to distribute around 1 billion doses of COVID-19 shots to low- and middle-income nations. (Getty)(Getty Images)

A pack of drugmakers are angling for COVID-19 vaccine approvals in the coming months, making the global distribution task more important than ever. With licensing deals in place with two frontrunners, a major vaccines player is now upping its commitment to provide inexpensive shots in emerging markets.

The Serum Institute of India (SII) pledged to make an additional 100 million doses of effective COVID-19 vaccines for low- and middle-income nations in 2021 as part of an expanded distribution effort with Gavi, the Vaccines Alliance, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the partners said Wednesday.

As part of their ramped-up manufacturing pact, the Gates Foundation will plug an additional $150 million into boosting SII and Gavi's production capacity to provide shots at a maximum of $3 per dose, bringing its total commitment to $300 million. 

SII's expanded pledge will bring the partnership's total commitment to 200 million doses in 2021. Distribution would begin in the first half of the year, provided at least one of its partnered shots—from AstraZeneca and Novavax—passes muster with regulators.

The institute has previously stated its goal to produce up to 1 billion doses per year to low- and middle-income countries. 

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SII's portion of the Gates Foundation funding will help flesh out manufacturing for Novavax and AstraZeneca's shots, both of which have recently entered phase 3 human testing. 

The vaccines will be distributed by Gavi's COVAX facility, a clearinghouse for shot distribution that has the sign-off from 73 higher-income economies and 92 low- and middle-income countries, including India, SII said.