Sunday, February 28, 2021

India to supply Saudi Arabia with British vaccine ‘at no profit’

SII wants to ensure poorer countries in Africa get their share and then turn to Europe and richer nations.

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The Serum Institute of India (SII) will supply Saudi Arabia with three million AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine doses priced at US$5.25 each in about a week on behalf of the British company, its chief executive has told Reuters.

SII, the world’s biggest vaccine manufacturer, has partnered with AstraZeneca, the Gates Foundation and the Gavi vaccine alliance to make up to a billion doses for poorer countries.

The Indian company supplies doses on behalf of AstraZeneca but is also free to strike its own supply deals.

Chief executive Adar Poonawalla told Reuters: “We have not been asked to supply any more products for Europe because 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 said the doses for Saudi Arabia would be shipped in a week or 10 days. SII is also supplying South Africa with 1.5 million AstraZeneca doses at the same price of US$5.25 each.

AstraZeneca has said it will not profit from the vaccine during the pandemic.

Brazil last week received two million doses of the vaccine from SII and Poonawalla said it also paid about US$5 per dose.

Poonawalla said that 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, once the third and final facility making the shot goes into production.

SII also plans to start stockpiling a vaccine candidate from American company Novavax Inc in a few months, despite a fire last week that killed five people and damaged one of its new plants in the western Indian city of Pune.

Poonawalla said SII had no intention of partnering with companies such as Pfizer Inc whose Covid-19 vaccine needs to be stored at about -70 degrees Celsius as India currently lacks such facilities.

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