The Serum Institute of India (SII) has finally resumed the delivery of Covid-19 vaccines after eight months of halted shipments to COVAX, the international initiative aimed at equitable access to coronavirus vaccines.
“I am pleased to announce that the much-awaited COVAX supplies will resume today from Serum Institute of India. This will go a long way in restoring vaccine supply equality in the world and especially in low and middle-income countries,” SII Chief Executive Officer Adar Poonawalla tweeted on Friday.
SII was supplying COVAX with the AstraZeneca vaccine until shipments stopped in March, only weeks after the first international shipments of vaccines from COVAX began arriving in countries.
The halt was due to a domestic Covid-19 crisis in India which spiraled out of control, causing the government to pause exports.
COVAX was overly dependent on SII for its vaccine supply so it wasn’t able to fulfill the promised doses to countries following the severing of this supply.
Many countries were left scrambling to find vaccines from elsewhere but were unable to because high-income countries had hoarded supplies.
Dr John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention described the following months as a “vaccine famine.”
“While COVAX’s portfolio is now much more diversified than it was earlier this year when we received our first SII deliveries, COVISHIELD remains an important product that has the potential to help us protect hundreds of millions of people in the months ahead,” said Dr Seth Berkley, chief executive officer of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.
SII said the government’s decision to resume exports is linked to the institute surpassing its year-end target of producing one billion doses.
To scale up production further, the manufacturer plans to also produce the COVID-19 vaccine from Novavax, which has emergency-use authorization in Indonesia and the Philippines.