In a development that sees India playing a larger role towards mitigating threats from the coronavirus that emerged from Wuhan, China, the Serum Institute of India (SII), the world’s biggest vaccine maker has signed a supply deal with Saudi Arabia for 3 million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses priced at $5.25 each, on behalf of the British drugmaker.
SII has partnered with AstraZeneca, the Gates Foundation and the Gavi vaccine alliance to manufacture up to a billion doses for many countries, including those which are economically weak.
While SII supplies doses on behalf of AstraZeneca, it is free to strike its own supply deals.
“We continue to support AstraZeneca wherever they need the support. We are happy to do so,” said Adar Poonawalla, SII’s CEO in an interview. “But we have not been asked to supply any more products for Europe because then that would mean supplies to Africa and India would suffer, and we certainly don’t want that”.
“Once I satisfy that I can look at other, richer nations. Six months to a year, that could change.”
He went on to add, doses for Saudi Arabia would be shipped within a week or 10 days.
SII will also be supplying 1.5 million doses to South Africa at the same price of $5.25 each on behalf of AstraZeneca.
“We have our hands full, in fact, with the volumes even we need to supply,” said Poonawalla. “We have been on time and we are able to supply to all these nations.”
AstraZeneca has stated it will not profit from the vaccine during the pandemic.
Last week, Brazil received 2 million doses of the vaccine from SII, which Poonawalla said was also paid about $5 per dose.
Once a third facility comes online, SII would raise production of the AstraZeneca vaccine by 30% by the end of March from its current daily output of about 2.4 million doses, said Poonawalla.
The company also plans to start stockpiling a vaccine candidate from U.S. company Novavax Inc in a few months time.