In a major development, the Serum Institute of India has confirmed that the price of its foreign-licensed COVID-19 vaccines will be capped at $3 per dose in low-to-middle-income nations.
The shots, one of which is already in late-stage human trials and known to generate an immune response, will be manufactured by the institute, with the backing of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Just recently, Serum Institute announced a partnership with GAVI, The Vaccine Alliance, and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to manufacture and deliver up to 100 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to India and other low-income countries by 2021.
Under the agreement, the Gates Foundation will provide at-risk funding of $150 million to GAVI, which would then provide capital to fund Serum's cost of vaccine manufacturing.
The agreement between the organizations is aimed at fast-tracking the mass-production of candidate vaccines developed by UK's Oxford University-AstraZeneca and America's Novavax.
Both the groups have granted manufacturing and distribution licenses to the Serum Institute and are heading towards clearing human trials.
The shot from AstraZeneca is already in the final stage, while Novavax's candidate is expected to go into Phase-3 next month.
Once the trials are cleared, the vaccines will be lined up for regulatory approvals in the targeted countries. If cleared, the company will proceed with the distribution of the manufactured doses.
In a statement, SII emphasized that the shots "will be available for procurement if they are successful in attaining full licensure and WHO prequalification" and that their prices will be capped at $3/dose.
"The rampant spread of the virus has rendered the world in an unimaginable halt of uncertainty. To ensure maximum immunization coverage and contain the pandemic, it is important to make sure that the most remote and poorest countries...have access to affordable cure and preventive measures."
"Through this association, we seek to ramp up our constant efforts to save the lives of millions," Poonawalla said.
So far, both of the candidate vaccines that SII is striving to mass manufacture have shown promise in clinical human trials.
The Oxford shot has generated dual immunity against the novel coronavirus in Phase-2 trials with over 1,000 volunteers, while the one from Novavax has also produced a high level of neutralizing antibodies in all the participants recruited in an early-stage trial.
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