India’s Serum Institute resumes vaccine exports to COVAX

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The world’s largest vaccine maker halted shipments of COVID shots in March as India saw an explosion in infections.

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Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine maker, has resumed exports of coronavirus vaccines in the UN-backed COVAX distribution program after halting most overseas sales in March.

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The company was a main supplier of COVAX, but exports stalled as a result of the explosion of cases in India.

At the time, Serum Institute had a contract to provide COVAX with 200 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccines, and undetermined agreements to supply 350 million more. The suspension was a significant blow to global efforts to distribute vaccines equitably.

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GAVI, the vaccine alliance that co-manages COVAX, said the company had provided it with just under 30 million doses.

Serum resumed exports on Friday, with new infections in India at their lowest level in months. Its shipment to Tajikistan was the company’s first shipment in seven months under the COVAX initiative.

“This will go a long way in restoring vaccine supply parity in the world,” Adar Poonawalla, chief executive of the Serum Institute, wrote on Twitter.

“This is a big moment for us, our partners at COVAX, and the resumption of exports to low- and middle-income countries,” he said in a separate statement.

Serum said it expects exports to increase significantly by early 2022.

The institute restarted after exceeding its original goal of producing 1 billion doses of the vaccine, branded as Covishield, by the end of the year, the company said in a statement. It has produced over 1.25 billion doses so far.

Serum Institute also started manufacturing the Novavax vaccine under license in June. Experts say the vaccine – which has been approved by regulators in Indonesia and the Philippines – is easier to store and transport than some others, and that could allow it to play a key role in boosting global vaccine supplies. Is.

Regarding the addition of the new vaccine, Poonawalla said, “We can be more hopeful that by the middle of next year the WHO target of vaccinating 70 percent of the world’s population can be met.”

Although coronavirus restrictions have been lifted in India, countries in Asia and Europe have tightened border controls after a new type was detected in southern Africa that scientists say could resist vaccines.

India’s federal government has asked states to screen travelers from certain countries and increase genetic sequencing to detect any infections.

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